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History of Neurology: Seminal Citation
April 2002

Harvey Cushing and Medulloblastoma

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pa.



Arch Neurol. 2002;59(4):642-645. doi:10.1001/archneur.59.4.642

History is in essence the telling of a story. The story of our current understanding of medulloblastoma, or cerebellar primitive neuroectodermal tumor, as it is now known, begins with the formidable and exhaustive work of Harvey Cushing, MD (1869-1939). The first recorded foray into the treatment of brain tumors in the United States began in 1888 with the resection of a meningioma by William W. Keen. Surgery at the time was greatly hampered by several conditions that limited the physician encountering a patient suspected of harboring a brain tumor. Little if any progress beyond that of pre-Columbian trepanation was made with regards to neurosurgery until the entry of Cushing into the surgical theaters of The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md, and later Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Mass. As Matson and German1 wrote in his biography: "Cushing lived at a time when medicine and surgery had progressed from the primitive era of bleedings and purgings and had reached the early period of its modern stride . . . asepsis was in its infancy and anesthesia consisted of pouring ether onto a sea sponge."

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