Dr. Harvey Cushing is credited with being the first surgeon to successfully remove a brain tumor; his most famous patient was Leonard Wood, a prominent U.S. military leader and 1920 presidential candidate.
Cushing also pioneered the use of a new surgical instrument, the cauterizing Bovie tool, which boosted brain surgery survival rates from less than 20 percent to more than 90 percent.
He was exhaustive in his analysis of tumors and other neurological diseases, often photographing patients before and after surgery, and obtaining his patients’ permission to study their brains posthumously. The photos and the brains provided valuable insight to visiting neurosurgeons for decades, both before and after Cushing’s death in 1939.
Cushing’s collection, though, lost relevance amid the proliferation of competing brain registries. In 1979, it was moved below the medical school dorm along with lab materials, an old gurney, and stacks of photographic negatives.