Why study the history of any particular subject? A simple answer is because someone wants to. Once a place, nation, idea or discipline has existed long enough and has had some measurable impact on the world, historians get to work. Study of the history of medicine, and of neurosurgery in particular, is worthwhile on several counts. Such study can broaden perspectives on how to manage technological and socioeconomic change, according to AANS Historian Samuel Greenblatt. Potentially, it may have a “humanizing” effect: A greater understanding of how illness was treated in the past can inspire medical students and doctors to become more sensitive to patients’ needs. In addition, a dose of humility gained from knowledge of our predecessors’ struggles can be a stabilizing influence on the physicians of today and tomorrow. Before neurosurgery was recognized as a specialty, one relevant procedure was studied extensively. Beginning with Paul Broca, the French surgeon who associated aphasia with injury to the inferolateral frontal lobe, several authors in the 19th century explored the significance of prehistoric skull trephination. These…
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