Sir Victor Horsley was a pioneering British neurosurgeon known for his numerous neurosurgical, scientific, and sociopolitical contributions. Although word of these surgical and scientific achievements quickly spread throughout Europe and North America in the late 19th century, much of modern neurosurgery’s view of Horsley has been colored by a single anecdote from John Fulton’s biography of Harvey Cushing. In this account, Cushing observes a frenetic Horsley hastily removing a Gasserian ganglion from a patient in the kitchen of a British mansion. Not long after, Cushing left Britain saying that he had little to learn from British neurosurgery. The authors of this paper examined contemporary views of Horsley to assess what his actual reputation was in the US and Canada. The authors conducted a thorough search of references to Horsley using the following sources: American surgical and neurosurgical textbooks; major biographies; diary entries and letters; PubMed; newspaper articles; and surgical and neurosurgical texts. The positive reception of his work is corroborated by invitations for Horsley to speak in America. Research additionally revealed that Horsley had numerous personal and professional relationships with prominent Americans in medicine, including William Osler, John Wheelock Elliot, Ernest Sachs, and (yes) Harvey Cushing. Horsley’s contributions to medicine and science were heavily reported in American newspapers; outside of neurosurgery, his strong opposition to the antivivisectionists and his support for alcohol prohibition were widely reported in popular media. Horsley’s contributions to neurosurgery in America are undeniable. Writings from and about prominent Americans reveal that he was viewed favorably by those who had met him. Frequent publication of his views in the American media suggests that medical professionals and the public in the US valued his contributions on scientific as well as social issues. Horsley died too young, but not without the international recognition that was rightly his.
ABBREVIATIONSMGH = Massachusetts General Hospital.