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Charles Harrison Frazier

Born  1870
Died  1936

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American neurosurgeon, born April 19, 1870, Germantown, Philadelphia; died July 26, 1936, Maine.

Biography of Charles Harrison Frazier

Charles Harrison Frazier played much the same pioneering role in neurosurgery in Philadelphia that Harvey Cushing played in Baltimore and later i Boston. His contribution to neurosurgery as a body of knowledge was considerable.

Frazier attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a classmate of William G. Spiller and graduated in 1892. Following his internships, he went to Berlin in 1895 for further education in surgery and surgical pathology under the famous pathologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) and the surgeon Ernst von Bergmann (1836-1907). On his return in 1896 he was appointed to the surgical staff of the University of Pennsylvania and to the teaching staff of the medical school. Already in 1901 he was appointed professor of clinical surgery and dean of the School of Medicine of the University.

In 1910, he succeeded in cutting the sensory root of the trigeminal nerve for the relief of pain in tic douloureux.

During World War I, Frazier served as Consultant in Neurosurgery to the Surgeon General of the U. S. Army. He was in charge of the neurosurgical service at the Base Hospitals at Cape May, New Jersey, and at Fox Hills, Staten Island, New York. He represented the Surgeon General at the Inter Allied Surgical Conference in Paris in 1920, and presented a paper on the results of the treatment of injuries to the peripheral nerves.

In 1922, Frazier was appointed John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Under his chairmanship, the department established fellowships for the teaching of young men and laid stress on the coordination between clinical and research activities.

Outside of the field of medicine, Frazier was also very active in social concerns. In 1910, he helped to establish the Social Service Department in the University Hospital. In 1914, he organized and was the first president of the Public Charities Association of Pennsylvania. The Association focused on the welfare of the handicapped, feeble minded, insane, and penal classes.

Frazier was a voluminous writer. His works included 200 contributions to medical literature, two monographs, and a textbook, Surgery of the spinal cord (1918). In addition to his landmark work on the surgery of the trigeminal nerve, Frazier's outstanding contribution to medicine was his work on the section of the anterolateral columns of the spinal cord [cordotomy] for relief of pain.

Frazier was a member of a large number of American and foreign medical societies. He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Hobart College and from the University of Pennsylvania (1925). In 1934, he was elected a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. His wife, Mary Spring Gardiner, whom he had married in 1901, had died in 1920, and was survived by four children.


  • A Study of the Post-Operative Changes in the Blood.
    With Holloway. Philadelphia, 1902.
  • Surgery of the Cranial Nerves.
    In Joseph Decatur Bryant (1845-1914) and A. H. Buck: Practical Surgery; New York, 1908.
  • The Intracranial Surgery of the Fifth (Trigeminal) and the Eight (Auditory) nerves.
    In Keen’s Surgery; Philadelphia and London, 1909.
    Keen could be William Williams Keen, 1837-1932.
  • Surgery of the Spine and Spinal Cord.
    With Allen. New York and London, 1918.

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