Brooks, Barney (1884-1952)

 Digital Record
Identifier: 226
Brooks, Barney (1884-1952)


  • 1884 - 1984

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Historical or Biographical Note

Dr. Barney Brooks was born in a two-room shack on the Texas cattle plains, December 17, 1884. When he died on March 30, 1952, he was an internationally known and respected medical educator. His path from cowboy to surgical professor was not an easy one - but then Barney Brooks was never a man who looked for the easy way to success. When he received his B.S. from the University of Texas in 1905, his financial resources were exhausted and he had to work for two years as a high school science teacher in order to pay his way through Johns Hopkins Medical School. In 1911, he graduated fifth in his class and took a surgical internship under Dr. William S. Halsted. He was not, however, offered a position on the Johns Hopkins house staff as resident, so he accepted a position on the staff of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

While a resident at St Louis. Dr. Brooks wrote fundamental papers on bone regeneration, intestinal obstruction, Volkman's contracture, and arteriography. It is said that Dr. Halsted approached a member of his staff one day in a rare state of excitement over a very fine piece of work by a fellow named Brooks in St. Louis, and wondered if they should try to get Brooks to come to Johns Hopkins. At that point, Dr. Halsted was reminded that he had dismissed the same Dr. Brooks from his staff two years earlier.

In 1925, Dr. Brooks accepted the position of Chairman of the Vanderbilt University Department of Surgery and immediately devoted himself to the building of a strong department of surgery. He organized a strong laboratory of surgical pathology using ideas that he had developed in his pioneering efforts in that specialty at Washington University. He introduced his famous Amphitheater Clinic in which medical students were called down to answer questions on the case being presented. For the student, the intensity of the moment was truly an unforgettable experience.

Dr. Brooks pursued his avocations with the same zeal with which he approached his profession. He approached golf with a common sense unorthodoxy that somehow enabled him to beat supposedly better players. When it was too dark to play golf, he would gladly consent to play a game of bridge, though it was a calamity to have him as a partner since he was forever proposing impossible bids. During his later years, Dr Brooks was found to be suffering from hypertension, although he denied all symptoms. In 1949 he suffered the first of a series of bouts of congestive heart failure. In 1951 he suffered right hemiplegia but continued to carry on until he suffered a fatal right cerebral hemorrhage in 1952.

Green Byron E. "Dr Barney Brooks," American Journal of Surgery, Vol. 98: pp. 706-712, November 1959.

Daniel, Jr., Rollin A. "Barney Brooks," Southern Surgical Association Transactions, Vol. 63, pp. 415-416, 1951.

Language of Materials



Photos, negatives, reprints, newspaper articles, program for a dinner comemorating the 60th birthday of Dr. Brooks, programs for the Barney Brooks Lectureship in Surgery, exam questions used by Dr. Brooks, register for Brooks manuscript collection held by Eskind Library, bibliography of the published works of Barney Brooks.

Repository Details

Part of the VUMC Historical Images and Biographies Repository

Eskind Biomedical Library
2209 Garland Ave.
Nashville TN 37232


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