Harvey Cushing: A Life In Surgery

Review by Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa.  Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa (also known as "Dr. Q") is the Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, Neuroscience, Oncology and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and the Director of the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Harvey Cushing

Michael Bliss, Paperback, 591 pages

Here is the first biography to appear in fifty years of Harvey Cushing, a giant of American medicine and without doubt the greatest figure in the history of brain surgery.

Drawing on new collections of intimate personal and family papers, diaries and patient records, Michael Bliss captures Cushing's professional and his personal life in remarkable detail. Bliss paints an engaging portrait of a man of ambition, boundless, driving energy, a fanatical work ethic, a penchant for self-promotion and ruthlessness, more than a touch of egotism and meanness, and an enormous appetite for life. Equally important, Bliss traces the rise of American surgery as seen through the eyes of one of its pioneers. The book describes how Cushing, working in the early years of the 20th century, developed remarkable new techniques that let surgeons open the skull, expose the brain, and attack tumors--all with a much higher rate of success than previously known. Indeed, Cushing made the miraculous in surgery an everyday event, as he and his team compiled an astonishing record of treating more than two thousand tumors.

This is the definitive Cushing biography, an epic narrative of high surgical adventure, capturing the highs and lows of an extraordinary life.


Review below by Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa.  Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa (also known as "Dr. Q") is the Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, Neuroscience, Oncology and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and the Director of the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Without the influence of Cajal and Halsted, the career of Harvey Cushing, born in 1869, might not have been possible. And without Cushing, many careers, including my own, would not exist. In this marvelous biography, Michael Bliss examines both the icon and the person. A genius with relentless ambition, Cushing was a mentor and tormentor, a perfectionist who often forgot the line between confidence and arrogance, yet ultimately he was a healer who once said that brain surgery amounts to "20 percent science, 75 percent artistry and 5 percent community benefit." Bliss vividly details Cushing's obsession with improving all aspects of surgical care, as well as clinical diagnostic methods. Cushing's life is like a great ghost story — it will haunt you long after it's over.

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