- Takes over the Special Assignment
in 1917 and is appointed first Chief of the MGH Neurosurgical
- A founder of minimally invasive
neurosurgery, Dr. Mixter was the first to successfully treat hydrocephalus
with endoscopic third ventriculostomy. (Boston Med. Surg. J.
- Dr. Mixter first recognized the
importance of herniated intervertebral
disks in causing nerve root and spinal cord compression syndromes.
This led to the first successful discectomy in collaboration with
Joseph Barr of the MGH orthopedic surgery service.
dated 1983] Dr. William Jason Mixter was Chief of the Neurosurgical
Service at MGH from its formal inception in 1939 until his retirement
in 1940, and again during the war years, 1941-1946. Dr. Mixter grew
up in Boston and on his family's farm in the Berkshires. He graduated
from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an SB degree
in Biology, and entered Harvard Medical School in 1902. After completing
the one-year internship then required at MGFI, he joined his father
and brother in private practice.
1915, Dr. Mixter went to France as a civilian surgeon and cared
for the casualties of World I for two years before the United States
joined the conflict. After a brief trip back to Boston, he returned
to France, this time in uniform with an MGH unit. A year later he
was transferred to England and was Commanding Officer of Base Hospital
204 at Hursley Park during the great influenza epidemic that broke
out at the close of \Vorld War 1. During this period he proved his
ability as an administrator, dealing as he did with difficult war-time
Although he practiced general surgery until 1920. Dr. Mixter's interest
in neurosurgery can be traced back to 1911, when he and his father
were as signed two beds at MGH to try out the procedures being developed
by Horsley and Cushing. Their success greatly exceeded expectations,
and Dr. Mixter was named Chief of Neurosurgery in 1933.
the ensuing years, he convinced the hospital trustees of the need
for additional beds, better operating room facilities, and a neurosurgical
resident. In 1939 a separate Neurosurgical Service was established
with him as Chief.
Mixter retired in 1940, but resumed leadership of the Neurosurgical
Service during World II, while his successor, Dr. James C. White,
was on active duty in the Navy. At this time, Dr. Mixter also held
the post of Senior Consultant in Neurosurgery to the Surgeon General
of the Army.
Mixter was especially interested in the treatment of pain, the sympathetic
nervous system, and the spinal cord. His best known work, done in
conjunction with Dr. Joseph Barr of the Orthopedic Service, involved
the problem of low backache with sciatic radiation.
prolific author, Dr. Mixter wrote articles on a wide range of medical
topics. In 1934 he and Dr. Barr coauthored the first paper defining
the syndrome of intervertebral disc protrusion. This paper is still
considered a classic. In addition, he coauthored, with Walter Dandy
and Max Peet, sections on neurosurgery for Dean Lewis's Practice
of Surgery and coauthored, with Dr. George Cheever Shattuck, a Handbook
of Health for Overseas Service.
Mixter was elected to the American Surgical Association in 1920
and was one of the original members of the Society of Neurological
Surgeons. He belonged to many other medical societies and was also
a member of the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and served as a trustee of the Massachusetts General Hospital.
the 20 stars of his neurosurgical practice, Dr. Mixter trained 28
young men in the art and science of neurosurgery. Many went onto
develop training programs of their own, thus spreading the experience
they gained working with Dr. Mixter in the early days of neurosurgery