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  • Chief of the Neurosurgical Service 1941-1961 (W.J. Mixter served as acting chief from 1941 to 1946 while Dr. White served in the Navy.) Contributions to the neurosurgical treatment of pain and spine neurosurgery.
  • First (with Drs Lougheed and Sweet) to use hypothermia for neuroprotection during surgery. (J. Neurosurg 12:240-255, 1955)

[extract dated 1983] Dr. James C. White served as Chief of the MGH Neurosurgical Service from 1941 to 1961 except during the war ears, 1941 to 1946, when he was on active duty in the United States Navy. Born in Vienna while his father was studying medicine in Austria, Dr. White was educated in the United States at Groton School and Harvard College. He graduated from Harvard College in 1917 with an AB degree in Chemistry. After spending two years as a line officer on a light cruiser in the Navy, Dr. White entered Harvard Medical School and in 1923 was awarded his MD degree, magna cum laude, with one of the best academic records in a decade at that school.

Dr. White spent six years in postgraduate study. In 1923 he began his internship in pathology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Impressed with the accomplishments of Dr. Harvey Cushing. Dr. White returned to Boston in 1924 and became an intern and resident in general surgery at MGH. In 1927 he received a Moseley Traveling Fellowship from Harvard Medical School that enabled him to study the sympathetic nervous system and surgery for pain with Professor A. Hovelacque in Paris and Professor R. Leriche in Strasbourg.

On returning to Boston, Dr. White joined the MGH surgical staff and specialized in the autonomic neurosurgery of vascular disease and pain in cardiovascular disease. He joined the neurosurgical staff in 1935 and became Chief of Neurosurgery in 1941.

World War II saw him again in uniform, this time as a Captain in the Naval Medical Corps. He served as Chief of Neurosurgery at the United States Naval Hospitals in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and St. Albans, New York. In this capacity he was mainly concerned with injuries to the spinal cord and peripheral nerves. After returning to MGH, Dr. White continued to serve the Veterans Administration for 10 ears as Branch Section Chief of Neurosurgery for the New England area.

Dr. White began his teaching career in 1926 as an Alumni Assistant in Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and in 1955 was named Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. Known as one of the outstanding teachers on the Harvard Faculty, Dr. White set high standards and did much to foster a physiological approach to surgery. The training program in neurosurgery he created at MGH received worldwide acclaim, and seven of his trainees became professors in charge of their own training programs at various medical schools throughout the United States,

Dr. White was described as the premier surgeon and contributor to knowledge in the field of the autonomic nervous system. His related fields of interest included neurovisceral physiology and the mechanisms and relief of chronic painful conditions. In his later years his interest in pain became predominant and culminated in his two major volumes on pain, coauthored with Dr. William Sweet. The last, Pain and the Neurosurgeon, A Forty-Year Experience, was published when he was 74 years old and is one of the numerous testimonials to his sustained intellectual vigor.

Dr. White was primary author of 180 scientific papers. In addition, he actively participated in professional societies and organizations. He was a member of' all of the major New England and national neurosurgical. neurological and surgical societies, as well as three French senior societies of neurosurgery and surgery. He and Dr. Sweet were, respectively the 14th and the 24th neurosurgeons to receive the annual award of honorary membership in the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

He died in 1981 at the age of 85. His interest in neurosurgery continued until the final year of his life. His friends and colleagues honored him with a substantial fund given to the hospital to establish a visiting lectureship in his name.

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[ Pictures from the Mixter Library Collection, the semi-annual Resident Group Pictures series,
the "Early history and Neurosurgery to 1939" and/or from "A Short History and Alumni Record (1909 to 1983)" ]
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