2008 Annual Meeting Abstracts
An Historical Paper: Harvey Cushing and the New England Surgical Society
Walter B. Goldfarb, MD.
Maine Medical Center, Portland, ME, USA.
Harvey Cushing is the most renowned surgeon in American history. Every aspect of his career including his many accomplishments, surgical and otherwise, papers, essays, and vast correspondence has been thoroughly documented and analyzed and are the subject of at least 4 biographies, numerous articles and reminisces. Despite this scrutiny, and given his active involvement in national and international surgical and scientific organizations, his relationship with the NESS, his “local” surgical society, was tenuous at best and has not been examined in detail.
One of the first members of NESS in 1916, he tendered his resignation 10 years later. His involvement in the affairs of the Society was minimal. He never presented a formal paper at a meeting. His extensive CV does not mention the NESS.
This, however, does not detract from the fact that one of his seminal contributions to surgery occurred at the 1926 annual meeting. That it was a surgical operation, and not a formal paper before the assemblage, still entitles us as a society to rightly take pride and claim it as “our own”.
His surgical prescience and clinical acumen combined with the innovative scientific genius of William T. Bovie, founder of the discipline of biophysics, resulted in the development of an electrosurgical unit which transformed all of surgery. In 1929, one year after publication, it was the subject of a best-selling novel and a popular movie later. This device and the clinical events surrounding its first, and chaotic, use in the operating room is the subject of this study.
An evaluation of Dr. Cushing and his unique and peculiar relationship with the Society will be addressed.