Typed Letter Signed by the Pioneering Neurosurgeon: “I am sorry you are having trouble with your eyes, but what tropic eyes may be, unless heliotropic, I am at a loss to know”

Signed by Harvey Cushing

$1250
Item: 19021
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CUSHING, HARVEY. (1869-1939). Pioneering neurosurgeon, bibliophile and biographer of William Osler. TLS. (“Harvey Cushing”). 2pp. 8vo. Boston, July 8, 1932. To fellow Cleveland native HELEN HAY WHITNEY (1875-1944), American poet, socialite, philanthropist, and daughter of John Hay, private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and McKinley’s secretary of state. Written on his Peter Bent Brigham Hospital stationery.

“Forget you! Gracious, how could you suggest such a thing? I would simply love to see your mother’s autograph album and am filled with pride at the thought that you would like to have a sample of my peculiar script added to it. It is so illegible that I do not venture to answer your note other than by this dictation, which I trust you will forgive. I am sorry you are having trouble with your eyes, but what tropic eyes may be, unless heliotropic, I am at a loss to know. Kate will rejoice in your message. She has just left to pay some visits in your part of the world and I know would love to see you…”

A pioneer in neurosurgery, Cushing’s most notable achievement was reducing the mortality rate of patients undergoing surgical removal of brain tumors from approximately 90 percent to 8 percent. Innovations included the Cushing clip, designed to control hemorrhaging during surgery, the use of suction and X-rays in surgery, the monitoring of blood pressure, and developing a safer method of administering anesthesia. His original research into brain surgery led to the establishment of the Hunterian Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard’s Laboratory of Surgical Research. Cushing trained scores of surgeons as a professor at both Harvard and at Yale, where he taught from 1933 until his death.

Watch Dr. Harvey Cushing’s 2,000th Verified Brain Tumor Operation

Helen Hay was the daughter of Secretary of State John Hay and Clara Louise Stone (referred to in our letter). She married wealthy businessman Payne Whitney in February, 1902, and as a wedding present, they were given a mansion at 972 Fifth Avenue, New York, to which our letter is addressed.

In 1941, the Whitneys’ son, John Hay “Jock” Whitney, married Cushing’s daughter, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt, who had recently divorced President Roosevelt’s son James. Betsey was FDR’s favorite daughter-in-law, maintaining a warm relationship with him long after her marriage to Whitney, who later adopted the children she had with James Roosevelt. After Jock’s death, his heirs disbursed much of his fortune to charity. One beneficiary was Yale University, which established the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library. A serious bibliophile, Cushing’s collection forms the nucleus of Yale’s library of medical history. Our letter also mentions Cushing’s wife, Katharine Stone Crowell Cushing. Written on the first and third pages of a folded sheet. Folded and with several pencil notes in the upper and lower left margins. Near fine and uncommon.

Typed Letter Signed by the Pioneering Neurosurgeon: “I am sorry you are having trouble with your eyes, but what tropic eyes may be, unless heliotropic, I am at a loss to know”

Signed by Harvey Cushing

$1250 • item #19021

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