John Bryant Curtis: Neurosurgeon, leader and mentor

Leon Lai, Andrew H. Kaye, Penelope Buckley

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In every generation of neurosurgeons, there are those whose judgment and professional accomplishments gain distinction among their peers. Such exceptional leaders often exhibit unique talent and inevitably, they exert a lasting influence on their field of endeavour. John Bryant Curtis was one of these. Rising from humble roots, Curtis made his impact in neurosurgery starting at the age of 36. A legendary and a master neurosurgeon for his period, he became the second director of Neurosurgery at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, succeeding R. S. Hooper in 1967. Like Hooper, Curtis had undertaken a three years Fellowship in Oxford at the Radcliffe Infirmary to train under Sir Hugh Cairns in 1947. On his return to Australia in 1950, he was among the pioneers in introducing percutaneous angiography into the country, which earned him the honourable Hunterian Professorship at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1958. This was in recognition for his contribution to the investigation of intracranial aneurysms. Among the many neurosurgeons whom John Bryant Curtis trained at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and at the Prince Henry Hospital, he was considered, by a few, a controversial figure. Others found the experience very positive. He was a distinguished neurosurgeon with expert clinical judgment, but simultaneously a stern and formidable character who demanded only the best from his staff and trainees. He was contrastingly thoughtful and gentle to his patients. Behind every great leader, there is a personal side, often more gentle and vulnerable than the public persona. Curtis was a generous, loving, funny, although at times eccentric human being. Although he died in 1989, ironically from metastatic brain tumours, his dynamic personality and work ethic imprinted a lasting impression on those who had met him. Crown

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1272
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Curtis
  • John Bryant Curtis
  • Neurosurgical history
  • Royal Melbourne Hospital

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