Charles B. Wilson

1990, Los Angeles

Charles Byron Wilson was born August 31, 1929, in Neosho, Missouri in the heart of the Ozarks. Known as the City of Flowers, Neosho (pop. 5000) was featured in Life Magazine as a typical 1940s American small town. Dr. Wilson's father was a druggist and an important member of the community.

As a young man, Dr. Wilson was influenced by a Tulane alumnus living in Neosho, and went to New Orleans on a football scholarship, planning to enter either medicine or the ministry. His career as a halfback was relatively shortlived and he settled on medicine, graduating first in his class in 1954. George Burch, the esteemed cardiologist, nearly convinced Dr. Wilson to go into internal medicine. Dr. Wilson took a rotating internship and 1 year in pathology at Charity Hospital, finding neuropathology, neurology, and neuroanatomy fascinating. He was drawn to neurosurgery by Dr. Dean Echols, the respected mentor of many Tulane neurosurgeons. During his time in New Orleans, Dr. Wilson was able to put his musical talent to work playing the piano in the French Quarter.

After completing his residency at Tulane, he joined the faculty briefly before becoming assistant professor of neurosurgery at Louisiana State University Medical School from 1961 to 1963, and won the Best Teacher Award in 1963. That same year he moved to Lexington and established the Division of Neurosurgery at the University of Kentucky. While there, he pursued his increasing interest in malignant gliomas and developed laboratory and clinical research programs. He received both the Outstanding Clinical Instructor and Outstanding Clinical Professor awards at Kentucky. He then was named professor and chairman of the Division of Neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco in 1968, and established the internationally respected Department of Neurosurgery there in 1970. He has been Tong-Po Kan Professor of Neurosurgery since 1985.

Doctor Wilson has expertise and extensive experience in many facets of neurosurgery, and has a special interest in pituitary disorders, having performed more than 2,000 transsphenoidal operations. Aneurysms, particularly of the posterior circulation, and the cervical spine also are areas of particular interest. However, Dr. Wilson justifiably is most proud of his accomplishments related to the establishment of the Brain Tumor Research Center at UCSF, which not only treats over 4,500 brain tumor patients each year, but also has contributed extensively to basic and applied research in neurooncology.

He has received numerous awards and honors and has been the Wilder Penfield Lecturer, the Herbert Olivecrona Lecturer, and the R. Eustace Semmes Lecturer among others. He has published more than 500 articles and chapters and has served on numerous editorial boards, including that of the Journal of Neurosurgery which he chaired from 1981 to 1983.

Dr. Wilson is a charismatic, scholarly, dedicated, and energetic leader and surgeon. He has contributed significantly to medical science and trained a growing number of neurosurgeons who are continuing his tradition of excellence in patient care and investigation of nervous system disorders. We were delighted to have him as honored guest for the Congress of Neurological Surgeons annual meeting in Los Angeles, in 1990.