Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Cushing Collection of Brains and Photographs Now Open to the Public at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

The Cushing Collection--a collection of over 500 human brains in glass jars (as seen in top image) and haunting pre- and post-operative photographs (remaining images) amassed by "father of modern neurosurgery" Dr. Harvey Cushing (1869 - 1939) as part of his practice--is now on view and open to the public at the Yale University Cushing/Whitney Medical Library.

"The brains and photos that are on exhibit at the Cushing Center at Yale University," explains Dr. Randi Hutter in the article "Inside Neurosurgery’s Rise" in yesterday's New York Times, "are believed to have been made as part of the patients' medical records. The collection includes photos taken of patients before and after operations, tumor specimens, and microscope images. In total, there are almost 10,000 glass plate negatives of patients treated by Dr. Harvey Cushing between 1902 and 1933."

More from the article:
The cancerous brains were collected by Dr. Harvey Cushing, who was one of America’s first neurosurgeons. They were donated to Yale on his death in 1939 — along with meticulous medical records, before-and-after photographs of patients, and anatomical illustrations. (Dr. Cushing was also an accomplished artist.) His belongings, a treasure trove of medical history, became a jumble of cracked jars and dusty records shoved in various crannies at the hospital and medical school.

Until now. In June 2010, after a colossal effort to clean and organize the material — 500 of 650 jars have been restored — the brains found their final resting place behind glass cases around the perimeter of the Cushing Center, a room designed solely for them....

Most of the jars contain a single brain; a few hold slices of brains from several patients. Some postoperative photographs next to the jars show patients with tumors bulging from their heads. When Dr. Cushing could not remove a tumor, he would remove a piece of the skull so the tumor would grow outward rather than compress the brain. It was not a cure, but it relieved the patient of many symptoms.
You can read the full article by clicking here, and view the entire image slide-show--from which many of the above images were drawn--by clicking here. The Cushing/Whitney Medical Library at Yale University is located at 333 Cedar Street, New Haven and is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (203) 785-5352. You can find out more about visiting the collection by clicking here.

Thanks to the many relatives, friends, and Morbid Anatomy fans who drew my attention to this article. Road trip, anyone?


ophelia chong said...

Joanna, you never fail to amaze or inspire with your posts. :O) ophelia

Sophia Walker said...

I would love to check it out! But I'm a Harvard gal myself.. :)

Great stuff, nothing and I do mean nothing beats a room full of brains in jars. Bravo!

BlueTerracotta said...

I read the article the other day and thought about Morbid Anatomy. Amazing photos and details about the doctor and patients.