Harvey Cushing: A Life in Surgery

Overview

"Your friend, Harvey Cushing, has opened the book of surgery in a new place," William Osler told a mutual acquaintance in early 1901. Indeed, in the early years of the twentieth century, Cushing (1869-1939) almost single-handedly created brain surgery as a specialty. Working at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and Yale University, his rise to become the world's most prominent surgeon - as well as a Pulitzer Prize winner for biography - was an epic of the American Dream. Michael Bliss, one of North America's most pre-eminent

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Overview

"Your friend, Harvey Cushing, has opened the book of surgery in a new place," William Osler told a mutual acquaintance in early 1901. Indeed, in the early years of the twentieth century, Cushing (1869-1939) almost single-handedly created brain surgery as a specialty. Working at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and Yale University, his rise to become the world's most prominent surgeon - as well as a Pulitzer Prize winner for biography - was an epic of the American Dream. Michael Bliss, one of North America's most pre-eminent professional historians and the leading voice in the field of medical history, has taken up the challenge of documenting this brilliant and complex man in a new biography, Harvey Cushing: A Life in Surgery.

Never before has such a detailed and compellingly readable account of a surgeon's life been written. Bliss vividly recounts Cushing's boyhood, his growing interest in surgery and, subsequently, neurosurgery, his travels and attentiveness to European surgical models, the influence of Osler and William Stewart Halsted, and his extraordinary passion and self-confidence in the operating room.

Interweaving Cushing's personal story with graphic accounts of his technical prowess, Bliss skillfully charts not only the life of a man, but also the birth and rise of the most esoteric and exotic fields of surgery and endocrinology (in which Cushing became a pioneer). Cushing was also known as an accomplished writer who wrote the influential The Pituary Body and its Disorders as well as a classic biography of his mentor and colleague, Osler. Not surprisingly, Cushing was a driven, relentless, workaholic, and Bliss's work lays plain the hurtful effect this had on his relationship with his wife and daughters, as well as some of his colleagues.

A sequel of sorts to Bliss's award-winning biography of Osler, and the completion of his project of describing the rise of North American medicine at the beginning of the modern age, Harvey Cushing: A Life in Surgery breaks new ground in medical biography. It will have a profound and lasting impact of the view of early-twentieth-century medicine and the lives of those who shaped it.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"As cleanly efficient as a successful operation.... As this solid, accessible biography reveals, Cushing may have been the very devil to live with, but with a scalpel in his hand, he did God's work."--Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

"An absorbing chronicle of the career of one of the greatest medical innovators ever produced by the US--or any other country.... One of the most extraordinary lives any biographer might wish to study.... It is Bliss's great accomplishment that he has made accessible not only the science, medicine, and professional atmosphere of Cushing's career, but also the character and personality of the man.... What Bliss has given to his subject is what Cushing himself, or any of us, would ask of a biographer: understanding."--Sherwin Nuland, New York Review of Books

"Monumental. Bliss begins before the cradle and ends beyond the grave, touching both on the material facts of Cushing's remarkable successes and on his convoluted inner life.... It is difficult to imagine how any future writer might improve on this masterpiece of compassion and erudition." --Richard Barnett, Lancet

"Brings back to life an amazingly accomplished man who was the father of American neurosurgery, a leading authority on the pituitary gland, a pioneer of endocrinology and a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer."--Denver Post

"A fast paced, engaging portrait of one of America's great pioneers and heroes. Bliss gives important insight into Cushing's motivations, inspirations, demons, and flaws, thus revealing how he was motivated to change a field and bravely create a new outlook on the functioning of the brain as well as a fundamentally new approach to medicine and research." --Henry Brem, Harvey Cushing Professor and Chairman, Department of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins

"Bliss...had a voluminous treasure trove of primary documents with which to work. His readable and thoroughly documented book presents Cushing as both an icon and a human being whose family and colleagues suffered from his single-minded devotion to work and blunt perfectionism. Written almost 60 years after the last major Cushing biography, this illustrated work calls on new resources and provides a more contemporary perspective."--Library Journal

"The essence of biography is the elucidation of personality, and this is accomplished in a superb fashion in Michael Bliss's splendid modern biography of Harvey Cushing, with each chapter providing a facet of insight into a complex and fascinating icon of 20th century medicine and surgery." --Edward R. Laws, MD, FACS, Professor of Neurosurgery and Medicine, University of Virginia

"Bliss has provided us with a definitive biography of the founder of American neurosurgery. It is a book about glitter and intensity, about vision and persistence, and about the emergence of America as a world leader in medicine. Sophisticated, balanced, and thoughtful it is a story of interest to physicians, surgeons, and lovers of history." --Peter M. Black, MD, PhD, Franc D. Ingraham Professor of Neurosurgery, Harvard Medical School and Neurosurgeon-in-Chief, Brigham and Women's Hospital

"Another tour-de-force by Michael Bliss. Like Bliss' William Osler: A Life in Medicine, it will be a classic of medical history." --Jock Murray, Medical Humanities Program, Dalhousie University

"It is beautifully written and illustrated, a pleasure to read, and paints Cushing 'warts and all.' A must for anyone with an interest in the development of our profession and with the life of this extraordinary man."--British Journal of Hospital Medicine

"This vibrant and beautifully crafted biography of Harvey Cushing will surely be read and enjoyed by virtually every neurosurgeon and many others within and outside of the neuroscience community."--Journal of Neurosurgery

"Bliss does a superlative job in conveying the strains that Cushing's surgical ambition and his celebrity status placed on his marriage."--Susan E. Lederer, American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195329612
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/25/2007
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 1,399,944
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Bliss holds the prestigious rank of University Professor at the University of Toronto. He has written numerous prize-winning books in medical history, including The Discovery of Insulin and William Osler: A Life in Medicine. One of Canada's most distinguished historians, he has received the Order of Canada and an honorary Fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

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