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Cancer, Cocaine and Courage: The Story of Dr. William Halsted

Length: 153 pages7 hours


Originally published in 1960 by co-authors Arthur J. Beckhard and William D. Crane, this is the story of Dr. William Halsted (1852-1922), an American surgeon who emphasized strict aseptic technique during surgical procedures and an early champion of newly discovered anesthetics. He introduced several new operations, including the radical mastectomy for breast cancer and along with William Osler (Professor of Medicine), Howard Atwood Kelly (Professor of Gynecology) and William H. Welch (Professor of Pathology), was one of the “Big Four” founding professors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Throughout his professional life, he was addicted to cocaine and later also to morphine, which were not illegal during his time. The addictions were a direct result of Halsted’s use of himself as an experimental subject, in investigations on the effects of cocaine as an anesthetic agent.

A fascinating read.

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