The North Shore-LIJ Health System is honored to have the family of Dr. Harvey Cushing, widely recognized as the father of modern neurosurgery, bestow his name to our neuroscience services in recognition of our dedication to the field.
Harvey Cushing, was born on April 8, 1869, in Cleveland, Ohio to a distinguished family of physicians. He was educated in the public schools of Cleveland and attended Yale University. Following Yale, he entered the Harvard Medical School where he received the degrees of MD and AM cum laude.
During his time in medical school, Cushing contributed to the study of blood pressure during surgery and developed a flow sheet for monitoring the responses of patients undergoing general anesthesia which, with few modifications, is used to this very day. He then moved on to an internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital and residency in general surgery at Johns Hopkins University. His mentors at Johns Hopkins were the pre-eminent physicians William S. Halsted, William Osler and William Welch.
Dr. Cushing became the first American doctor to devote himself to the development of the new field of neurological surgery. He was recruited back to Boston in 1914 as Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Surgeon-in-Chief at the newly built Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, which was designed according to his specifications. Dr. Cushing was widely known as the greatest neurosurgeon of the twentieth century and his school of neurosurgery was world famous. He was responsible for training the greatest leaders in the field of neurosurgery and was a pioneer in the field.
During World War I, Dr. Cushing took a unit of the Harvard Medical School to France in 1915. In 1917 he was commissioned a Major in the British Medical Corps. For two years he directed the Army base hospital and saved countless lives of the seriously wounded soldiers. He received distinguished medals and decorations for his service from Great Britain, France and the United States.
Dr. Cushing’s greatest contribution to medicine was to prove the feasibility of intracranial surgery by demonstrating that the brain could be safely operated upon and not result in mortality. The application of scientific methodology to clinical problems through his establishment of research laboratories and Cushing's neurosurgical skills reduced the rate of mortality of brain surgery from almost 100% to 10%. Among his achievements, Dr. Cushing is credited with introducing the electrocautery device for hemostasis during neurosurgery in collaboration with Dr. W.T. Bovie. He detailed the origin and movement of the cerebrospinal fluid, which he defined as The Third Circulation. Dr. Cushing was responsible for developing definitive surgical techniques for treating meningiomas and acoustic neuromas and he introduced transphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenomas. The Bailey and Cushing classification of brain tumors remains a seminal contribution to the field of pathology.
Authoring 330 books and papers over his lifetime, Dr. Cushing was also known as a prolific writer and a medical historian. He was the authorized biographer of Sir William Osler and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1926 for this book. Dr. Cushing also authored The Pituitary Body and Its Disorders, which brought him instant recognition early in his career. Because this book defined the pituitary as the master gland for controlling thyroid, adrenal and gonadal function, Dr. Cushing is often thought of as the father of modern endocrinology.
Dr. Cushing was recognized both nationally and internationally as a medical and scholarly genius. He was given an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Washington University, Yale, Harvard, Leeds and Oxford. A Doctor of Laws degree was given to him by Western Reserve, Cambridge, Glasgow, Edinburg and Syracuse. In addition, honorary degrees from the Universities of Lvov, Strasbourg, Brussels, Berne, Budapest, Amsterdam, Dublin and Paris were conferred upon him.
On a personal level, Dr. Cushing was an avid collector of some of the greatest medical books in history. His books are now housed in the Sterling Library at Yale University.
Dr. Cushing’s Family
Dr. Cushing married Katherine Stone Crowell and fathered three daughters all of whom became distinguished in their own rights: Barbara (Babe) Cushing Paley, Betsey Cushing Whitney and Mary Cushing Fosburg. He also fathered two sons, William Harvey and Henry Kirke.
Betsey Cushing and her husband John Hay Whitney enjoyed a 50-year relationship with North Shore University Hospital. In 1951, they donated the land on which the hospital now stands immediately adjacent to the 500 acre Whitney Estate. They remained devoted supporters of the hospital, where their medical needs were attended to, and championed many medical programs during their lifetimes. Upon learning about the neuroscience initiatives of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, the daughters of Betsey Cushing Whitney, Sara and Kate, have consulted with members of their family and have agreed to confer the name of their legendary grandfather to this undertaking.