Herbert  Olivecrona, MD


HERBERT OLIVECRONA was born in Visby, Sweden, on July 11, 1891, the son of Judge Axel Olivecrona and Countess Ebba Morner. He went to school in Uppsala, and began his medical studies at the University of Uppsala in 1909. In 1912, he continued his education at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, graduating in 1918. Before graduating, he was assistant in Pathology for two years at Karolinska Institutet, and assistant in Pathology at Pathological Institute, Dortmund, for one year. In 1918, he was assistant at the Surgical Clinic, University of Leipzig, and in 1919, assistant at the Surgical Clinic, Serafimerlasarettet Stockholm. Later in 1919, he obtained a fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation and did experimental work at the Hunterian Laboratory of Johns Hopkins Hospital for one year. During that year, he was also an observer in Dr. Halsted’s clinic. After his return to Stockholm in 1920, he continued at the Surgical Clinic, Serafimerlasarettet, as a resident. Harvey Cushing agreed to accept him as a foreign assistant, on the condition that he work one year in the clinic of Pierre Marie in Paris. He could not afford to spend two years abroad without any income, and was thus unable to take advantage of Dr. Cushing’s proposal.

As he was the only surgeon in Stockholm at that time who was interested in brain tumors, he was able to operate on a large number of cases over the next few years. He gave much credit for his success to Dr. Erik Lysholm, an outstanding roentgenologist, who was the first to make encephalography and ventriculography reliable procedures. In 1929, he had spent a month watching Harvey Cushing operate. His practice became wholly neurosurgical in 1930.

In 1930, he was made assistant surgeon in chief at Serafimerlasarettet and was given his own department of about 50 beds, which soon became filled entirely with neurosurgical cases. In 1935, he was made a professor of Neurosurgery at Karolinska Institutet, probably the first chair of Neurosurgery in Europe. He held this appointment until his retirement from academic duties on July 1, 1960.

In October 1960, he was invited by the Egyptian government to organize a neurosurgical unit in Cairo, where he stayed for two periods of six months each. After his return from Cairo, he was occupied for three years with his part of the Handbook der Neurochirugie (coeditor-Tonnis).

He continued in private practice in Stockholm for many years after his academic retirement in 1960.

Dr. Olivecrona was the author of numerous books and articles. His first great publication in neurosurgery was his book, Die Chirugische Behandlung der Gehirntumoren, 1927.

He was a member of several European, Scandinavian, and American Societies. He was awarded honorary M.D.’s by the Universities of Athens and Cologne, and an honorary D.Sc. by Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota.

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