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Henry E. Sigerist

Correspondences with Welch, Cushing, Garrison, and Ackerknecht

Edited By Marcel H. Bickel

Henry E. Sigerist (1891-1957) is known as the most influential medical historian in the first half of the 20 th century. More than that he was a scholar of an unusually broad spectrum of activities. 50 years after his death he is still the subject of publications. During his active life in Zurich, Leipzig, Baltimore, and again in Switzerland he exchanged letters with some 300 correspondents of all walks of cultural life. The letters to Sigerist as well as the copies of his own letters are preserved in near completeness, a fact that allowed an unabridged and annotated edition. This volume contains Sigerist’s correspondences with the architect of American medicine, William H. Welch, the pioneer brain surgeon, Harvey Cushing, the medical bibliographer, Fielding H. Garrison, and the medical historian, Erwin H. Ackerknecht. The letters allow insight into the correspondents’ biographies and activities, their private lives, and relationships between persons, topics, and books. They also reflect the eventful time of the mid-20 th century. To each of the four correspondences is added an introduction and indices of literary works and of persons mentioned.


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2. Correspondence Henry E. Sigerist – Harvey Cushing 1926–1939


40 41 2.1. Introduction 2.1.1. Harvey Cushing (1869–1939) Born in Cleveland in 1869, the son of a physician, Harvey Cushing was raised in a family with a long tradi- tion of medicine. He obtained his B. A. at Yale in 1891 and an M. D. at Harvard in 1895. From 1896 to 1912 Cushing worked at the Johns Hopkins Medical School under the famous surgeon and teacher William Halsted, doing research on the struc- ture and physiology of the nervous system. The years 1900–1901 pro- vided further training in England, France, Switzerland, and Germany. Back in Baltimore he became asso- ciate professor, further specializing in neurosurgery and the pituitary gland. During all these years at Hopkins he also felt the influence of Osler, Kelly, and Welch who also awakened an interest in the history of medicine in Cushing. In 1912 Cushing continued his career at Harvard. At Peter Bent Brigham Hospital he became the world leader in the new speciality of neurosur- gery. He introduced technical innovations, operated with impeccable tech- nique and careful handling of tissues, showing concern for the welfare of his patients. He also directed laboratories for experimental surgery and created a classification of brain tumors. During WWI he was head of the Harvard Base Hospital in France. When he retired in 1932 at age 63 he had operated 2000 brain tumors, written over 300 scientific papers and had dramatically improved the field of neurosurgery. In 1931 Cushing declined Welch’s chair of the History of...

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