Like a hole in the head: a very medical tribute

Harvey Cushing was not only a pioneering neurosurgeon but a fantastic artist, as can be seen from his amazing scientific illustrations. It turns out, he gave a few below-the-radar tributes in his drawings, as he based several illustrations of brain surgery ‘patients’ on portraits of his colleagues.

On the left is a drawing from Cushing’s 1908 book Surgery: Its Principles and Practice. It shows a craniotomy in a patient with a gunshot wound that had damaged the motor cortex (actually, I’ve flipped this image so it better matches the picture below).

The image at the bottom is a portrait of the Canadian physician William Osler, and you can see that the ‘patient’ is really a portrait of Osler.

Apparently, the two men had a warm friendship and a strong mutual admiration:

Osler and Cushing became firm friends, with their common bond a scholarly interest in medical biography and an avid love of books. Geoffrey Jefferson graciously assessed Cushing’s ties with Osler:

“The friendship which sprang up between the two proved to be a vital factor in his life, and probably no less in Osler’s‚Ķ. No special reason requires to be shown for matters of feeling; not the least was that they just liked one another a lot. They shared ideals in the meaning and the uses of the medical life in its highest intellectual plane, as well as at a humanitarian level, as the similarities of their writings on these subjects show”…

After Osler’s death in 1919, responding to the invitation of Lady Osler, Cushing spent 5 years writing his monumental opus, The Life of Sir William Osler. Published in two volumes, it was awarded a Pulitzer prize for literature

I found this interesting snippet in a great article on the history of modern brain surgery in a 2003 article from the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Link to PubMed entry for history of neurosurgery article.

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