Capsule

The Search for the Cushing Brains

With the neurosurgeon’s collection on display, a trip to the “brain room” and a rite of passage are no more.

By now the story of Harvey Cushing’s brains is well-known. When the neurosurgeon died in 1939, he left his brain tumor collection, patient registry, and glass plate photos to Yale, his undergraduate alma mater. For decades the 650 jars of brain specimens sat abandoned and ignored in the basement of Harkness Hall. Dripping limestone walls were the only companions for Cushing’s malignant tumors and detailed photographs, a collection he had begun building in 1902. After years of neglect, the collection went on public display in the Cushing Center in the basement of the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library in 2010. Before the brains’ removal from the basement of Harkness, Yale employees found a large white poster board...

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