Walter E. Dandy, MD: A personal biography by Mary Ellen Marmaduke

Nathan R. Selden

Walter E. Dandy, MD, was a neurosurgical pioneer whose legacy forms a central chapter in the foundational history of neurological surgery. Dandy’s restless professional energy and distinctive creativity drove him to make stunning and seminal contributions to neurosurgery: the first aneurysm clipping, the first discectomy, and most importantly, the invention of modern hydrocephalus therapy. Dandy developed ventriculography to diagnose and anatomically classify individual cases of hydrocephalus. He also achieved the first definitive and durable hydrocephalus cures using ventriculoscopy, third ventriculostomy, and choroid plexus coagulation. Today, aided by modern computer navigation and fiberoptic endoscopy, we have only recently reconstituted the advances that Dandy first achieved almost a century ago.

Tradition describes Dandy as Cushing’s most famous and accomplished pupil. Cushing’s mentorship of Dandy is one of the most fascinating biographical relationships in North American medicine. However, as Dandy developed into a mature, technically daring, and accomplished surgeon, his relationship with Cushing turned to competition and at times discord.

Most neurosurgeons are familiar with these facets of Dandy’s professional accomplishments. Mary Ellen Marmaduke, his eldest daughter, has written a biography of her father that is unique in portraying additional human details of his family life, personal habits, friendships, and relationship with his children. Dandy’s insightful brilliance and personal warmth are evident throughout. His legacy stands in contrast to the stereotype of early neurosurgeons as distant, aloof, and intimidating to both colleagues and family.

Ms. Marmaduke’s intimate knowledge of Dandy’s life derives from her memories and those of her three siblings, as well as access to a wealth of private letters, notes, photographs, and other family heirlooms. An accomplished educator, speaker, and mentor, Ms. Marmaduke has produced a family history that sparkles and evokes Dandy’s world unlike any other biography of the surgical pioneers from that period.

The CNS shares Walter Dandy’s focus on technology, innovation, and generational change. This year, Wolters Kluwer will publish an updated and annotated 2nd edition of Ms. Marmaduke’s wonderful Dandy biography to coincide with the Congress of Neurological Surgeons’ 65th Annual Meeting, in New Orleans, Louisiana, September 26–30, 2015. We are also fortunate that Ms. Marmaduke will be present to celebrate her father’s legacy and to inscribe copies of the 2nd edition for interested attendees at the Annual Meeting.