Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen

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Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen
Born 1886 (1886)
Died 1953 (1954)
Nationality Norvege
Citizenship United States
Scientific career
Fields surgery

Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen ( November 14, 1886 – May 1953) was Norwegian-born American physician and orthopaedic surgeon.


Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen was among the most prominent and innovative of orthopaedic surgeons of the first half of the 20th century according to the Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® Journal (CORR).[1] Readers (of CORR) are directed to his works on a new approach to treating fractures of the neck of the femur,[2] mould arthroplasty,[3] osteotomy of the spine,[4] and continuous irrigation for osteomyelitis,[5] all republished as Classics in CORR as examples of his innovative spirit.

Dr. Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen was the son of Morten Smith-Petersen and Kaia Jensine Rosalie Ursin, he was born on November 14, 1886 in the coastal town of Grimstad in Aust-Agder County, Norway. He died the 16th of June, 1953 in Boston, Massachusetts USA, at the age of 65, he died suddenly of a heart disorder, shortly after performing a successful hip replacement operation on one of his most famous patients, television, talk-show host, Arthur Godfrey. For many generations the Smith-Petersens were a prominent mercantile family in the cities of eastern Norway. His paternal, grandfather Morten Smith-Petersen (1817-1872) owned and operated a shipbuilding company where he built a great fleet of merchant sailing vessels from his shipyard known as Hasseldalen in Grimstad, Norway. Morten was also a member of Stortinget (Norwegian Parliament) and was known as a principal supporter of free trade and the establishment of "Norwegian Veritas". Marius' paternal grandmother was Katrinka von der Lippe (1824-1890) she was the daughter of Bishop Jacob von der Lippe, a member of Norwegian Parliament and the Bishop of Kristiansand, Norway. She was also a third cousin to playwright, Henrik Ibsen. Maruis' father, also named Morten Smith-Petersen was considered a brilliant young lawyer with great promise, who in 1888 he died suddenly of pneumonia, when Marius was only two years old. His mother, Kaia was an accomplished violinist, trained by her father, Frederik Ursin a conductor and prominent violinist of Christiania, now Oslo, Norway. Kaia was playing trios with her father, and composer, pianist Edvard Grieg at the age of twelve. After the death of her husband Kaia moved from Grimstad to Oslo, Norway with her four sons, of whom Marius was the youngest. In 1903 at the age of sixteen, Marius and his mother, Kaia immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There he attended and was graduated from West Side High School in 1906. He then matriculated at the University of Chicago for one year, then transferred and graduated from the University of Wisconsin, receiving a B.S. in 1910. He worked as a laboratory assistant to Nobel Prize winner (1944) physiologist, Dr. Joseph Erlanger while attending the Medical School at the University of Wisconsin. Marius Smith-Petersen then transferred to Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts earning his degree in 1914. His general surgical internship was served at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, MA under the pioneering neurosurgeon, Harvey Williams Cushing, M.D. The knowledge, skills and techniques he acquired from this association had a profound influence on his surgical career. He served in France during World War I with the First Harvard Medical Unit at the American Ambulance Hospital in Paris, France. His Orthopaedic foundation was laid under Dr. E. G. Brackett at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Smith-Petersen often called Mads by his friends went into private practice in Boston, Massachusetts in 1923. He served as Assistant Instructor in Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School from 1920-1930, as Instructor in Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School from 1930–1946, as Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School from 1935-1946 and as Chief of Orthopaedic Service at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1929-1946 and as consultant to The Surgeon General from 1942-1945. He was internationally known for the development of the Smith-Petersen nail and hip nailing techniques and for hip-mold arthoplasty. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav by the King of Norway. He was a brilliant surgeon and a gifted professor. He married Hilda Whitney Dickinson daughter of Charles P. Dickinson and Susan Cushing of Lunenburg, Massachusetts, they had four children and resided in Newton, Massachusetts.[6]


Smith-Petersen nail, 32 years after implantation

From 1923 until his death in 1953 he carried on an active orthopedic surgery practice while successively serving as Instructor, Assistant Clinical Professor, and Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard. In 1929 he was appointed Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1925, Smith-Petersen introduced the three-flanged steel nail for insertion across the fracture site in hip fractures, an innovation that considerably improved recovery and mortality rates from hip fractures.[7]

In May 1953 he performed successful surgery on entertainer Arthur Godfrey, who had been in pain for over 20 years after an auto accident. Smith-Petersen died just days after his surgery on Godfrey.[8]


  1. ^ Smith-Petersen, Marius Nygaard. Femoroacetabular Impingement: Current Status of Diagnosis and Treatment. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. March 2009, Volume 467, Issue 3, pp 605-607. by Richard A. Brand MD
  2. ^ Smith-Petersen M. The Classic: treatment of fractures of the neck of the femur by internal fixation. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1967;54:3–11. [PubMed]
  3. ^ Smith-Petersen M. The Classic: Evolution of mould arthroplasty of the hip joint. 1948. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2006;453:17–21. [PubMed]
  4. ^ Smith-Petersen M, Larson C, Aufranc OE. The Classic: Osteotomy of the spine for correction of flexion deformity in rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1969;66:6–9. [PubMed]
  5. ^ Smith-Petersen M, Larson C, Cochran W. The Classic: Local chemotherapy with primary closure of septic wounds by means of drainage and irrigation cannulae. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2008;466:104–112.[PMC free article] [PubMed]
  6. ^ Books and journal publications lEvolution of Mould Arthroplasty of the Hip Joint (Lippincott-Raven Publishers) [1]
  7. ^ Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen, 1886–1953 (Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research) [2]
  8. ^ Radio: Operation Godfrey (Time Magazine. May. 25, 1953)

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