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Portraits of Brain Surgery Patients from the 1900s

Dr. Harvey Cushing

Dr. Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) was America’s first specialist in neurosurgery. He not only developed a baseline for how brain surgery is conducted to this day, but he also pioneered the use of techniques like X-rays for tumours and helped to develop the electrocautery tool with physicist William T. Bovie. Between 1900 – 1932, he photographed his patients as they healed from brain surgery, and took over 10,000 photographs over the course of his career. His patients had a high survival rate for what was a very dangerous procedure. These photos are haunting and artistic in the lighting and poses, and the subjects are expressive and melancholic. No one here looks happy that they’re alive. They all look like they’ve been through a deeply harrowing experience that they may never recover from. Check out a collection of Dr. Cushing’s patient portraits here:

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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