CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Jefferson Lewis.

Halifax, Goodread Biographies, c1981, 1983.
Canadian Lives series.
304pp, paper, $5.95.
ISBN 0-88780-101-3.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by George Seibel.

Volume 12 Number 2
1984 March

Something Hidden is an excellent biography of Wilder Penfield. It deals with the personal and professional life of the American-Canadian neurosurgeon. This book is a part of the series Canadian Lives, whose subjects range from famous Canadian writers to bomber pilots.

This biography is a fascinating account of Wilder's life. The book mirrors world events from turn-of-the-century America to the 1970s of Canada through the life and career of Dr. Penfield. The reader traces the life of Penfield from his boyhood in New England to his adult life in England and Montreal. Great historical events framed his life. It is interesting to see the everyday life of a young Rhodes Scholar in World War I England. Pen-field travelled the globe seeking new understanding in neurosurgery. He saw the transition of Germany into a totalitarian state. He was the first Canadian surgeon to visit China after Dr. Bethune.

Aside from the historical aspect of this biography, the medical development of neurosurgery is clearly described. This reader was fascinated in the careful descriptions "trap door" brain surgery and the development of EEC equipment. Medical information is presented to the reader in a simple yet precise way. The mysteries of brain surgery, brain tumours, and epilepsy are effectively described.

The human side of medical practice and research is also shown. This reader will never forget the section dealing with Dr. Penfield's efforts in trying to save his sister Ruth's life. She died of a brain tumour. Dr. Penfield's professional and personal lives are well described. He was able to unite neurosurgery, research, and training in one centre, the Montreal Neurological Institute. As he was achieving world recognition in his medical research, Penfield's mind was haunted occasionally with self-doubt.

It is encouraging to see such fine biographies being presented to Canadian consumers. I highly recommend this book to all high school, public, and medical libraries.

George Seibel, Widdifield S. S., North Bay, ON.
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