Ernest Sachs, Sr., MD
Ernest Sachs, teacher, investigator, physician in its truest sense, this member of the group of founders of neurosurgery was born into an illustrious family of educators, scientists, financiers, and artists in New York on January 25, 1879.
The son of an outstanding educator, founder of a private boy’s school, and pioneer in the development of Columbia University’s Teachers College, he first attended his father’s school. Graduating from Harvard in 1900, and from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1904, he then had three years of residency at Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York. There he became impressed with the importance of postoperative care, as stressed by his mentor Dr. Arpad Gerster.
A period of three years in Europe, most of it spent working with Sir Victor Horsley, was responsible for his decision to become a neurosurgeon. His treatise on the thalamus, the result of work done in Sir Victor’s laboratory, is still a classic.
Accepting an invitation to develop neurosurgery in the newly organized Washington University Medical School, he became the world’s first Professor of Neurosurgery. However, his interest in the teaching of general surgery continued until his retirement, and his Thursday noon clinic was outstanding. Beginning in 1921, to train men in neurosurgery, he "graduated" many "Fellows" who went on to become outstanding teachers and clinicians.
His publications were many, for he lived through and shaped the development of neurosurgery, and he made Saint Louis a Mecca for students and teachers alike. A member of many societies, he was proudest of being a founder and the first secretary of the Society of Neurological Surgeons. Later serving as its president, he was also president of the American Neurological Association, and an honorary member of the Royal Society of Medicine (England) and the Deutsche Akadamie der Naturforscher. He was a member of the first Board of Directors of the American Board of Neurological Surgery.
His happy marriage to Mary Parmly Koues in 1913, resulted in a life of ideal companionship and three children; a daughter and two sons, Ernest, Jr., also a neurosurgeon, and Thomas Dudley, a professor of physics. The death of his daughter in 1927, left a deep sadness, never forgotten.
The imprint of Ernest Sachs on neurosurgery is permanent. He lived through all of the modern era of his specialty and was a potent factor in its development. Working in the period when the toil was great and the rewards meager, he was responsible for many innovations that made for more productive efforts. An excellent technician, and a superb teacher and physician, he gave to each patient his best effort and expected his residents to do the same.
His retirement years were happily spent at Yale University, in association with many friends, and during this period he added to an already-long and valuable list of articles and books on neurosurgical subjects. His death came on December 2, 1958, just a short time before his eightieth birthday.
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