William Beecher Scoville

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William Beecher Scoville (January 13, 1906 – February 25, 1984) was a neurosurgeon at Hartford Hospital. Scoville established the Department of Neurosurgery at Connecticut's Hartford Hospital in 1939. He performed surgery on Henry Gustav Molaison in 1953 to relieve epilepsy that led to damage of Molaison's hippocampus and left him with memory disorder.[1]


He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 13, 1906. Although he had a strong interest in automobiles throughout his life, his father pushed William toward a career in medicine. After completing his undergraduate degree at Yale he attended and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1932. In 1953 he performed surgery on Henry Gustav Molaison. The surgery was supposed to treat Molaison's epilepsy - Scoville had a "hunch" that the hippocampus was responsible, and based on this erroneous guess, removed Molaison's hippocampus - sucking it out using a medical tool which comprises a cauterizing blade and suction vacuum. All the while, his anesthetized but conscious patient sat in the operating chair. Of course, the hippocampus is now known to be crucial in the formation of memories - and so Henry Molaison was rendered unable to form new memories for the rest of his life. Scoville died as the result of a car crash on February 25, 1984.

Scoville also contributed to the development of the aneurysm clip. Scoville's modification was to place a coiled spring with an axis parallel to the plane of clip closure as described in the article Scoville WB: Miniature torsion bar spring aneurysm clip. J Neurosurg 25:97, 1966.


  1. ^ Benedict Carey (December 4, 2008). "H. M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-05. Eighteen years after that bicycle accident, Mr. Molaison arrived at the office of Dr. William Beecher Scoville, a neurosurgeon at Hartford Hospital. Mr. Molaison was blacking out frequently, had devastating convulsions and could no longer repair motors to earn a living. After exhausting other treatments, Dr. Scoville decided to surgically remove two finger-shaped slivers of tissue from Mr. Molaison’s brain. The seizures abated, but the procedure — especially cutting into the hippocampus, an area deep in the brain, about level with the ears — left the patient radically changed.