11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

Categories: History | People | Science | Society | World

Luckily, we live in a time where most diseases can be cured or controlled—to some extent, at least—and life expectancy has gone way beyond thirty. However, that wasn’t always the case and we have many people to thank for the rapid development of all sorts of medical practices.

When it comes to brain surgery, for instance, it’s Dr. Harvey Cushing who should be praised for laying the groundwork in the field. Considered to be the pioneer of neurosurgery, he was not only the first exclusive neurosurgeon but also the first person to describe what is now known as Cushing's disease.

If you are fascinated by neurosurgery or simply someone with a curious mind, today’s list might be something you didn’t expect to see but are eager to browse now that you’re here. Below you will find portraits of some of Dr. Cushing’s patients from back in the 20th century, so scroll down to view them, but keep in mind that some images can be somewhat disturbing.

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11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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Born on the 8th of April, 1869, in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Harvey Cushing was one of the most prominent people in the history of neurosurgery. Considered to be the pioneer in the field, he not only performed countless operations but took notes on them meticulously, which added to an impressive collection of neuroscience research at its early stages.

Discussing Cushing’s input in the world of neuroscience, Cohen and Gadal wrote: “For Cushing to achieve the dream of establishing and spreading his specialty through his disciples, he needed to first prove the safety of his methods. His patients therefore became the center of his career and their stories, which he carefully recorded, became the diary of neurological surgery in its infancy.”

11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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According to a research paper on Cushing’s life and work, the father of modern neurosurgery was the youngest of ten children, who came from a family well-rooted in the world of medicine: his father, grandfather, and even his great-grandfather were all general medical practitioners. With such a pedigree, it’s not surprising that Cushing, too, entered the world of medicine, graduating from Yale University in 1891, and receiving a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1895.

11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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Said research paper pointed out that the details surrounding Cushing’s life and his work are particularly well documented since he was keen on writing letters and keeping records. 

A study of some of Cushing’s notes found that he had copious documentation of his surgical mishaps as well as suggestions on how to prevent such accidents from happening in the future.

Some mistakes the surgeon documented included errors of judgment—such as the time he reportedly operated on the wrong side of a patient’s brain—as well as cases classified as “human error,” entailing such mishaps as dropping an instrument into a wound.

11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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At the age of 33, Cushing became an associate in charge of neurological surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. That’s where he worked with trigeminal neuralgia—a condition that causes sudden and severe pain in one’s face—and began operating on brain tumor patients.

In addition to that, he became increasingly interested in the pituitary gland—a pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain—and would spend countless hours working on it both in the operating room and the laboratory. Such effort eventually led him to become a global authority figure regarding matters related to trigeminal neuralgia, brain tumors, and diseases of the pituitary gland.

11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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11 Haunting Medical Portraits Of Harvey Cushing’s Patients In The Early 20th Century

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Due to his prominent work in the field of medicine, Dr. Henry Cushing’s name can be found not only in all sorts of books and documents but among the list of diseases, too. A condition (now known as Cushing's disease or Cushing's syndrome) that occurs when the body makes too much of the hormone called cortisol was named after the renowned surgeon, as he was arguably the first one to describe it when he described a patient with hypercorticism back in 1912.

Keywords: Medical Portraits | Historical photos | Haunting medical portraits | Patients | Harvey Cushing | 20th Century

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