William Williams Keen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
William Williams Keen Jr.
WW Keen.jpg
Keen in December 1918
Born (1837-01-19)January 19, 1837
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died June 7, 1932(1932-06-07) (aged 95)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Children Dora Keen
Relatives Walter Jackson Freeman II (grandson)

William Williams Keen Jr. (January 19, 1837 – June 7, 1932) was an American doctor who was the first brain surgeon in the United States.[citation needed] He also saw Franklin D. Roosevelt when his paralytic illness struck,[citation needed] and worked closely with six American presidents.[citation needed]


Keen was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 19, 1837, the son of William Williams Keen Sr. (1797–1882) and Susan Budd. He attended Philadelphia's Central High School.[1] He studied at Brown University, where he graduated in 1859. He graduated in medicine from Jefferson Medical College in 1862.[2] During the American Civil War, he worked for the U.S. Army as a surgeon. After the war, he spent two years studying in Paris and Berlin.[3]

Keen started lecturing surgical pathology in Philadelphia. He was president of the Philadelphia School of Anatomy from 1875 to 1889. He became known in the medical community around the world for inventing several new procedures in brain surgery,[citation needed] including drainage of the cerebral ventricles and removals of large brain tumors. In 1888 Keen also performed one of the first successful removals of a brain tumor.[4] Keen also participated in a secret surgical operation to remove a cancerous jaw tumor on Grover Cleveland in 1893.

Keen married in 1867 to Emma Corinna Borden. They had four children: Corinne, Florence, Dora, and Margaret. He died in Philadelphia on June 7, 1932, at the age of 95.[5][6] Keen's grandson, Walter Jackson Freeman II, became a doctor who specialized in lobotomies.

Honors and recognition[edit]

He received honorary degrees from Jefferson Medical College and Brown, Northwestern, Toronto, Edinburgh, Yale, St. Andrews, Greifswald, and Upsala universities, and served as president of the American Surgical Association (1898), the American Medical Association (1900), the Congress of American Physicians and Surgeons (1903), and the American Philosophical Society (after 1907).[7]

In 1914, at a meeting of the International Surgical Association, he was elected president for the meeting of 1917. After 1894, he was foreign corresponding member of the Société de Chirurgie de Paris, the Société Belge de Chirurgie, and the Clinical Society of London; honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the German Society of Surgery, the Palermo Surgical Society, and the Berliner Medizinische Gesellschaft and associate fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[8]

Procedures and signs[edit]

  • Keen's operation, an omphalectomy
  • Keen's sign, increased diameter of the leg at the malleoli in Pott's fracture of the fibula.


"Gunshot Wounds, and Other Injuries of Nerves" by Mitchell, Morehouse and Keen, 1864

He published:

  • Clinical Charts of the Human Body (1870)
  • Early History of Practical Anatomy (1875)
  • Surgical Complications and Sequels of Typhoid Fever (1898)
  • Addresses and Other Papers (1905)
  • Animal Experimentation and Medical Progress (1914)
  • an edition of Heath's Practical Anatomy (1870)
  • the New American from the Eleventh English Edition of Gray's Anatomy (Sept 1887) [9]
  • the New American from the Thirteenth English Edition of Gray's Anatomy (Sept 1893) [9]
  • the American Text-Book of Surgery (1899, 1903)
  • Keen's System of Surgery (1905–13)
  • I believe in God and in evolution (1922)
  • Everlasting life, A creed and a speculation (1924)



  1. ^ "William Williams Keen American Brain Surgeon". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  2. ^ McCallum, Jack Edward (2008). Military Medicine: From Ancient Times to the 21st Century. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc. p. 177. ISBN 978-1-85109-693-0. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  3. ^ Keen, William Williams (2016). Surgical Reminiscences of the Civil War. Big Byte Books. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  4. ^ "William Williams Keen American Brain Surgeon". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  5. ^ "Dr. W.W. Keen Dies. Famous Surgeon. Assistant in Operation in 1893 on President Cleveland for Removal of Sarcoma. Had Served in Three Wars. Vigorous Exponent of Theory of Evolution and of Vivisection. Long Professor at Jefferson". New York Times. June 8, 1932. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  6. ^ "Dr. Keen, Famous Surgeon, Is Dead". Associated Press in the Milwaukee Sentinel. June 8, 1932. Retrieved 2010-07-31. Dr. William Williams Keen, who won world fame by his skill with the surgeon's knife, died at his home here Tuesday night from the ... 
  7. ^ New International Encyclopedia
  8. ^ "Keen, William Williams". www.brown.edu. Retrieved 25 October 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Carmine D. Clemente, ed. (1985). Gray’s Anatomy (30th ed.). Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger. ISBN 0-8121-0644-X.  pp.vi-ix

External links[edit]