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XXI Congreso Nacional de la Sociedad Española de Neurocirugía
Barcelona, 17-19 Mayo 2017
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Victor Horsley in America

K.Lehner and M. Schulder

Department of Neurosurgery, Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, Manhasset, NY., USA

Word of Victor Horsley’s surgical and scientific achievements quickly spread through Europe and North America in the late 19th century. Horsley first traveled to the United States to speak on his surgical experience with the nervous system at the Congress of American Surgeons and Physicians in 1888. He was invited to give the Cartwright Lectures in New York in 1897, but could not attend, and lectured at the British and Canadian Medical Association meeting in Toronto in 1906. His surgical techniques and results were also referenced in pioneer American neurosurgical texts: Starr’s Brain Surgery (1893), Cushing’s The Pituitary Body and its Disorders (1912) and Frazier’s Surgery of the Spine and Spinal Cord (1918).

William Osler was one of the first Americans to meet Horsley; they were friends, and Osler contributed to Horsley’s obituary. John Wheelock Elliot, a prominent surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, met Horsley in 1889, and brought word of Horsley’s surgeries to Boston and a young Harvey Cushing. Cushing’s recount of a negative meeting with Horsley has dominated how American neurosurgery has viewed the great British innovator. Later writings, however, reveal a cordial relationship and immense respect between the two men. Ernest Sachs studied with Horsley from 1907-1908 and considered him one of his most valuable mentors. Outside of neurosurgery, Horsley’s strong opposition to the anti-vivisectionists and his support for alcohol prohibition were widely reported in American newspapers.

Horsley’s contributions to neurosurgery in America are undeniable. Writings from and about prominent Americans reveal that he was viewed kindly by those that had met him. Frequent publication of his views in the American media suggest that medical professionals and the public in the United States valued his contributions on scientific as well as social issues. Horsley died too young, but not without the international recognition that was rightly his.


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