Walter E. Dandy

Walter Edward Dandy (1886-1946) is considered to be one of the founding fathers of neurosurgery. Trained under Harvey Cushing, Dandy was the second Professor of Neurological Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been credited with several critical discoveries, including the description of the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, surgical treatment of hydrocephalus, the description of brain endoscopy and the first clipping of an intracranial aneurysm.

Walter E. Dandy is honored annually by the CNS through the Walter E. Dandy Orator, whom is selected for each Annual Meeting. The Dandy Orator is typically a non-neurosurgeon who is recognized as a hero, pioneer and innovator in their chosen field.

We are proud to host the transcripts of correspondence by Walter E. Dandy with his family. This material illustrates the personal side of neurosurgical genius, in his most private expressions, during the years spanning early college education through senior tenure at Johns Hopkins Medical School (1903-1946). The letters have been carefully transcribed under the careful stewardship of the Dandy family. Many of the letters include highly private thoughts, tribulations and reflections on personal and professional developments in Dandy's life and career. They tell much about this man, his fondness and his intense affection toward his family. They reveal fragile vulnerability during his early career, even when he was making incredible advances in the field, and illustrate the maturing of his confidence as his reputation grew. They balance what may have been an unfair image of Dandy, as a tough and demanding taskmaster at work.

Indeed, there is a private and vulnerable side to every hero, no matter how imposing or formidable his public persona. The heritage of neurological surgery is enriched by wide access to this archival material for students and scholars of our field. The Mission of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons is Education. The CNS is proud to sponsor and host this material on our web site, in true adherence to this mission and ideals. We are grateful to the Dandy family for their confidence and generous consideration.

Issam A. Awad, MD, MSc, FACS, MA (Hon)
51st President, Congress of Neurological Surgeons

Note From the Walter Dandy Family

On behalf of my family, I would like to thank the Congress of Neurological Surgeons for publishing the "Archive of Walter Dandy Family Correspondence" on its website, thus making it possible for us to share this material with a wide audience. We hope that in reading my father's words others will have the opportunity to see him as we knew him: as a remarkable man who was as devoted to his family as he was dedicated to his profession.

My father was an avid letter writer to our great benefit, and my mother carefully preserved his correspondence. My sister Kitty initiated this project of compiling, transcribing and editing his personal correspondence. She and I have pored over hundreds of letters, struggling to decipher his handwriting and to understand his references. It has been a rewarding experience. Beyond reviving wonderful family memories, these letters have given us new insights into our father and his world through the eyewitness accounts of a keen observer.

The letters are presented here in two groups: those from 1907-1914 and a smaller set written between 1923 and 1946. Kitty compiled the first group of 227 letters, which had been kept at the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives at Johns Hopkins. These letters represent correspondence between our father and his parents. Except for one letter written in 1903 during his first week in college, and two others written on a train trip around the country before he entered Johns Hopkins in 1907, the letters cover his years in medical school and his early residency at Johns Hopkins. I compiled the second group of 123 letters covering the period 1923-1946 when he was a professor at Hopkins and a practicing neurosurgeon. This group represents letters written by my father to his parents, to my mother, and to my siblings and me.

We encourage you to read this correspondence, believing that you will find the letters to be engaging and interesting. Thank you again for giving us this opportunity to share them.

Mary Ellen Dandy Marmaduke

For John and Rachel Dandy

Readers of this correspondence cannot fail to notice the remarkable closeness of Walter Dandy and his parents. John and Rachel's unwavering belief in their son's character and ability surely contributed to the self-confidence and ambition that made his life's work successful. Walter Dandy well understood and appreciated the sacrifices his parents made for him, and the importance of their moral support. In 1924, at the time of his marriage he wrote:

Dearest Mother and Father:

. . . It's such a wonderful thing - the most wonderful of this world's possessions to know that wherever you may be there is someone always thinking about you and of some way to help you. That has always been my fortune, far more than falls to the lot of most people. And somehow I seem to realize and appreciate it more with each passing year. How much you have both done for me and how much you have sacrificed to do it and never once looked at the sacrifices but always as a farther and higher goal. Long ago I realized that greatness was not frills and superficialities but the real true blue of unselfish devotion. . .


The correspondence transcribed here could well be entitled "Unselfish Devotion." I'm sure my father would agree that this collection of their correspondence should be dedicated to his parents - my grandparents.

Kitty Dandy Gladstone
Wellesley, Massachusetts
August 1997