Wilder Graves Penfield OM CC CMG FRS[1] (January 26, 1891 – April 5, 1976) was a pioneering neurosurgeon once dubbed "the greatest living Canadian".[2] He expanded brain surgery's methods and techniques, including mapping the functions of various regions of the brain such as the cortical homunculus. His scientific contributions on neural stimulation expand across a variety of topics including hallucinations, illusions, and deja vu. Penfield devoted a lot of his thinking to mental processes, including contemplation of whether there was any scientific basis for the existence of the human soul

Penfield was born in Spokane, Washington on January 26,[Notes 1] 1891 but spent most of his early life in Hudson, Wisconsin.[2] He studied at Princeton University, where he was a member of Cap and Gown Club[3] and played on the football team. After graduation in 1913, he was hired briefly as the team coach. In 1915 he obtained a Rhodes Scholarship to Merton College, Oxford,[4] where he studied neuropathology under Sir Charles Scott Sherrington. After one term at Merton, Penfield went to France where he served as a dresser in a military hospital in the suburbs of Paris.[4] He was wounded in 1916 when the ferry he was aboard, the SS Sussex, was torpedoed.[4] The following year he married Helen Kermott, and began studying at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, taking his medical degree in 1918; this was followed by a short period as a house surgeon at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.[4] Returning to Merton College in 1919,[4] Penfield spent the next two years completing his studies; during this time he met William Osler. In 1924, he worked for five months with Pio del Rio-Hortega characterising the type of glial cells known as oligodendroglia.[5] He also studied in Germany and New York.[6]

In science fiction author Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, characters use a household device called a Penfield Mood Organ to dial up emotions on demand. Penfield was a groundbreaking researcher and original surgeon. With his colleague Herbert Jasper, he invented the Montreal procedure in which he treated patients with severe epilepsy by destroying nerve cells in the brain where the seizures originated. Before operating, he stimulated the brain with electrical probes while the patients were conscious on the operating table (under only local anesthesia), and observed their responses. In this way he could more accurately target the areas of the brain responsible, reducing the side-effects of the surgery.

This technique also allowed him to create maps of the sensory and motor cortices of the brain (see cortical homunculus) showing their connections to the various limbs and organs of the body. These maps are still used today, practically unaltered. Along with Herbert Jasper, he published this work in 1951 (2nd ed., 1954) as the landmark Epilepsy and the Functional Anatomy of the Human Brain. This work contributed a great deal to understanding the localization of brain function. Penfield's maps showed considerable overlap between regions (i.e. the motor region controlling muscles in the hand sometimes also controlled muscles in the upper arm and shoulder) a feature which he put down to individual variation in brain size and localisation: it has since been established that this is due to the fractured somatotropy of the motor cortex. From these results he developed his cortical homunculus map, which is how the brain sees the body from an inside perspective.[11]

Penfield reported[12] that stimulation of the temporal lobes could lead to vivid recall of memories. Oversimplified in popular psychology publications, including the best-selling I'm OK, You're OK, this seeded the common misconception that the brain continuously "records" experiences in perfect detail, although these memories are not available to conscious recall. Reported episodes of recall occurred in less than five percent of his patients, though these results have been replicated by modern surgeons.[13][14] Penfield's hypothesis on this subject was revised in 1970.[15] His development of the Penfield dissector, the neurosurgical technique that produced the less injurious meningo-cerebral scar, became widely accepted in the field of neurosurgery and remains in regular use.

Why is lot of Penfield's work lost:

(1) It was done in Canada.

(2) It was way before it's time.

(3) The Rockefeller Foundation did not promote it.

(4) It does question religious beliefs.

(5) The American Medical Association did not follow up on it.

Penfield in later life worked on the question of Human Soul . His number two was Max Stein a good friend of Dorothy Day. Had he sign the Dorothy Day statement in June,1974 ld a challenge to Roe vs. Wade decision would have been possible.

Wilder Penfield By Frank Mill Pond Gratke

Pages on Frank Mill Pond Gratke site