Neurology and Neurosurgery Department History

The history of neurologic and neurosurgical innovation at The Johns Hopkins Hospital begins with the institution's opening in 1889. In the early 1900s Harvey Cushing, “the father of neurosurgery,” performed the first successful operations for brain tumors. In 1937 Walter Dandy performed the first aneurysm clipping.

A dedication to understanding the nervous system through research and how it can impact clinical care has defined Johns Hopkins Neurology and Neurosurgery since the very beginning. Our team quickly emerged as leaders with research on how the brain reacts to injury and with inventions such as the use of X-rays to guide brain surgery.

A half-decade later, when Johns Hopkins neurologists and neurosurgeons discovered that strokes, brain and nervous system disorders and injuries, present such distinct problems, that only specialized intensive care can save patients, they pioneered the first dedicated neurological critical care unit (NCCU) in the country.

Read About the History of Neurology and Neurosurgery

These books provide an illustrated and lively account of the history of Johns Hopkins neurology and neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery Faculty and Trainees Through the Years

In its long and illustrious history, neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins has nurtured some of the most legendary innovators in the field, and continues to build on that foundation for an even more exciting future. Share in the story with photographs of our faculty throughout the years.

Key Names in the History of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins

More than a century later, many of the surgical concepts and discoveries founded by the forefathers of Neurosurgery continue to help pioneer tremendous advances. Today, the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurosurgery is one of the largest clinical departments in the world and has been consistently recognized as one of the top programs in the country.

History of Neurology at Johns Hopkins

The Department of Neurology at Johns Hopkins was founded in 1969. In this remarkably short period of time, the Department has become one of the most influential in the world, and has trained a remarkable group of leaders of other departments. Much of the success is due to the energy and vision of Guy McKhann (the 1969-89 era) and his initial recruits, but the soil was prepared by a series of individuals and their often conflicting visions, dating back to the founding of The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1889 (the first 80 years).

The Hopkins environment provided fertile ground for the growth of the Neurology Department. Hopkins was the birthplace of Pediatric Neurology under Frank Ford, as well as Neuro-ophthalmology under his colleague and friend, Frank Walsh. The School of Hygiene and Public Health was home to chronic disease and stroke epidemiology under Abraham Lillienfeld, and the basic science departments of the School of Medicine were headed by world renowned neuroscientists Vernon Mountcastle in Physiology and David Bodian in Anatomy. The Department of Neurology thrived.

In the summer of 1969, six new faculty members joined the three original members of the small division of Neurology and established distinct adult and pediatric neurology inpatient units. Three new research laboratories also were initiated: Neurochemistry under Guy McKhann, the Kennedy Professor and first Director of the Department of Neurology; Neurovirology and Immunology, under Richard Johnson, the Eisenhower Research Professor of Neurology; and Neuromuscular Disease under Daniel Drachman. Over two decades, the size and breadth of the inpatient, outpatient, and consultation services increased rapidly and other subspecialty groups developed with accompanying investigative work. Additional research and training programs were developed in Stroke, Neuro-oncology, Neuropathology, Neuro-ophthalmology, Epilepsy, Cognitive Neuroscience, Genetics, and Neuro-intensive Care.

With departmental growth, the inpatient units, outpatient clinics, offices, and laboratories became scattered throughout the Johns Hopkins medical campuses. In 1982, the Adolph Meyer Building was opened and all the components of the department were consolidated and dedicated neurological intensive care and epilepsy monitoring units were established.

The evolution of the department continues. Additional research laboratories have been acquired to meet the needs of expanding investigative work. From the original nine members of the faculty in 1969, the department has now grown to over 70 full-time neurological clinician-investigators.

History of Pediatric Neurology

Pediatric Neurology at Johns Hopkins has a long-standing history with its original founders including Drs. Frank Ford and David Clark. The Division of Pediatric Neurology within the Department of Neurology was founded in 1969 by Drs. John Freeman and Guy McKhann. Under their guidance and leadership, postdoctoral training in child neurology at Johns Hopkins became one of the foremost programs in the nation. After 21 years as Director, Dr. Freeman relinquished his position in 1990 to one of his former students, Dr. Harvey Singer. Dr. Eric Kossoff became the Associate Director of the training program in 2007 and the Director in 2009. Dr. Lisa Sun is the Associate Director of the program.

Since the program's inception, there have been many significant clinical and research accomplishments by members of the pediatric neurology service. Perhaps the most meaningful is the long-term success of its trainees. Of the more than 80 residents who have completed their training at Johns Hopkins, approximately two-thirds have entered academic medicine and one-third are in clinical practice. Several former trainees are currently serving as program directors in North America, Europe and Australia. In 2005, the book Treatment of Pediatric Neurologic Diseases was published by Drs. Singer, Kossoff, Crawford and Hartman (all former trainees), with the majority of chapters written by other former Hopkins trainees as a testament to their differing but clear expertise.