Physicians in Canadian History - Dr. Wilder Penfield

One of Canada's foremost neurosurgeons, Dr. Wilder Penfield is known for the development of a surgical treatment for epilepsy known as the " Montreal Procedure", and the maps of the sensory and motor sections of the brain created from this technique are still used today. The famous, " I smell burnt toast!" comes from his surgical discovery, and is depicted in the Heritage Minutes video here.

Attending Princeton, Oxford, and John Hopkins Medical School, where he received his medical degree, he was well on his way for success. It was at Oxford that he met fellow Canadian Sir William Osler, and was inspired by his achievements.

Dr. Wilder Penfield's work at the Presbyterian Hospital put him in high demand, and after receiving many offers, he chose the Royal Victoria Hospital at McGill in Montreal. Here he would not only be in charge of neurosurgery, he would also be responsible for research and teaching, which was exactly where he wanted to be. His ambitions were to be able to carry out effective research on the brain, and to do this most effectively, he felt a neurological team operating under one facility would be ideal for continued research and development.

In 1934, his mission was realised, and he founded the Montreal Neurological Institute, now called The Neuro, which became an international centre for teaching, research, and treatment of brain disorders and diseases of the nervous system. Dr. Penfield hoped that the institute would act as a catalyst for Canadian neurology, and is quoted as saying, "We dare to hope that this is the inauguration of an institute of medicine that is characteristically Canadian, the birth of a Canadian School of Neurology."

An American-Canadian, Dr. Wilder Penfield was born in 1891 in Spokane, Washington and died in 1976 in Montreal, Quebec.

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