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Emil Seletz Gallery

Sir Victor Horsley

Bust of Sir Victor Horsley
Donor: Emil Seletz

The following is from the book Emil Seletz, Sculptor.

Sir Victor Alexander Haden Horsley was born April 14, 1857, the son of John Calcott Horsley, RA, a famous artist of his day.

His uncle, Seymour Haden, was a physician and famous etcher.

"His artistic gifts came from his heredity, for he could draw well and had a deep sense of beauty and art. His hands were those of an artist and such hands also befit a surgeon".¹

Before he was 30 he had removed the spinal cord tumor from an Army officer (age 45) with a spastic paralysis of the lower extremities. The patient made a complete recovery.²*

Victor Horsley was more than a great surgeon and great pioneer, he was a great human being whose creed was, "The brotherhood of man and the ultimate triumph of good."³

Gilbert Horax (sic) eminent neurosurgeon, state: "It seems to me that there can be no possible dispute to the right of Sir Victor Horsley to be called The Father of Neurological Surgery."³

From the very beginning of his medical career that he began at age 21, he began important research on surgery and anatomy of the nervous system.4

"He was a great surgeon, a great physiologist, a great pathologist, a social reformer and one of the great teachers of mankind on the surgery of the Central Nervous System."5

In 1890, at the International Medical Congress in Berlin, he discussed the 44 operations he has performed on the brain.

Dr. Walter Dandy related to me on several occasions that he studied and learned much from the writings of Sir Victor Horsley.

The most lucid and yet complete brief biography of Sir Victor Horsley is the one by Edwin M. Todd in his scholarly volume of essays, Reflections Through A Murky Crystal (note - in Archive collection and available for "borrowing").

Edwin Todd, the accomplished neurosurgeon, bibliophile, literary and legal scholar, possesses many traits, not only of Sir Victor Horsley, but also of the great neurologist, novelist and poet S. Wier Mitchell.

  1. M. MacNalty: Great Teachers of Surgery: Sir Victor Horsley. British Journal of Surgery, 51-1946.
  2. Gilbert Horax: Neurosurgery, An Historical Sketch. Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, 1952.
  3. A. Earl Walker: Sir Victor Alexander Haden Horsley 1857-1916 in The Founders of Neurology, W. Haymaker (Ed). Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, 1955.
  4. Edwin M. Todd: Sir Victor Horsley, Surgeon Crusader in Reflections Through A Murky Crystal, pp. 3-17.

*E-mail correspondence received on May 14, 2008:

"On your website page you have a picture of a bust of Sir Victor, and (among other things) the following information.

'Before he was 30 he had removed the spinal cord tumor from an Army officer (age 45) with a spastic paralysis of the lower extremities. The patient made a complete recovery.2'

"I found this entry particularly interesting, because the patient was my grandfather, Captain Hubert Henry Grenfell of the Royal Navy. We have a few details of the operation, including a cutting from the Lancet, and it has been a real pleasure, not to say excitement, to find more details on the internet.

&However, you may like to put the record straight in a few small details. The operation took place on June 9th 1887, when my grandfather was 41 years old (actually 3 days short of his 42nd birthday), and Sir Victor had celebrated his 30th birthday some 8 weeks earlier. Also my grandfather was a Naval officer, not in the Army.

"The story is the more poignant for me and my immediate family, as five years after the operation my father was born, and later my two youngest aunts. Without Sir Victor's efforts it is more than likely that I would not exist.

"With best wishes,

"Frank Grenfell"

S. Wier Mitchell, MD

Bust of Dr. S. Wier Mitchell
Donor: Emil Seletz

The following is from the book Emil Seletz, Sculptor.

"Mitchell was born to an inheritance of refinement and culture - the seventh physician in three generations" (quote from The Founders of Neurology). During the Civil War, he became a contract surgeon. One of his major interests was neurology. He actually was the first neurologist in America, and his work on war wounds to nerves has become a classic.

I quote from Nolie Mummey, MD - Silas Wier Mitchell, The Versatile Physician (The Range Press, Denver, 1934):

"Dr. Mitchell's fame as a physician perhaps rests most on his outstanding contributions to the study of nervous and mental disease and it may be rightly said that he was among the first to take up neurology as a specialty. The famous Dr. Welch states: The study and description of peripheral nerve phenoma (sic), especially those resulting from injury, constitute the largest, most original, distinctive and important contribution of Wier Mitchell to neurology, and within this narrow field his work is comparable to that of Duchenne and Charcot on diseases of the spinal cord.

He was a great physician, our leader, endeared and admired, generous, wise, inspiring - a sweetener of life to both sick and well."

Dr. Mitchell was a physician to the Philadelphia Orthopedic Hospital and Infirmary for more than 30 years. Charles Frazier, the eminent neurosurgeon of the University of Pennsylvania, said of him: "He was a superior intellect, yet through it all, a scientist, a war-time surgeon, as man of letters, as devoted friend, Wier Mitchell was always and above all, the great physician."

An anecdote about Wier Mitchell was told to me by R. Tait McKenzie. Dr. McKenzie was Professor in charge of Rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania, but he was also a great sculptor.

During my memorable visit with Dr. McKenzie, I showed him photographs of several of my sculptures - he pointed his finger at me and said: "Seletz, you will be found out." Then he related to me the story of a visit between S. Wier Mitchell and his devoted friend, the immortal physician-poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes. Dr. Mitchell had published one or more novels and a book of poetry and Oliver Wendell Holmes was concerned that the medical profession would not take kindly to his extra medical accomplishments, and after some discussion, Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed a finger at Dr. Mitchell and warned, "Mitchell, you will be found out."

He was found out, incidentally, and was never given a teaching position at his undergraduate school, the University of Pennsylvania, nor at Jefferson Medical College where he received his MD degree in 1850.

Dr. Howard C. Naffziger

Bust of Dr. Howard C. Naffziger
Donor: Emil Seletz

The following is from the book Emil Seletz, Sculptor.

Dr. Naffziger, Professor and Chief of Neurologic Surgery and Head of the Department of Surgery at University of California, San Francisco, was one-time president of the American College of Surgeons and later regent of the University of California.

A great surgeon, a most dynamic personality, and a demanding teacher.

Dr. Naffziger was a most cooperative and genial "sitter". It was a pleasure having him and Mrs. Naffziger during their many visits while I worked on the clay bust.

Dr. Rachelle Seletz, my art critic, would always find and correct my many small errors during my work on this and other portrait busts.

Dr. Eugene Stern, Professor and Head of the Department of Neurologic Surgery at the University of California in Los Angeles, and Elizabeth (Mrs. Stern) would come over periodically to help judge the work and to make helpful suggestions while the sculpture was in progress.

Seymour Thomas, who painted the portrait of Sir William Osler in 1906, painted the portrait of Dr. Naffziger for the American College of Surgeons. I was flattered, therefore, when Dr. Naffziger agreed, or rather permitted me. to do his portrait in bronze for the University of California.

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