Welcome to the Dr. Wilder Penfield Archive

(Wilder Penfield Fonds - P142)

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Physical Description

44.7 m of textual records, 11,797 photographs, 3,885 illustrations, 2,638 glass slides, 25 medals (& 3 draft medals & 1 pin)


ca 1915-1976

Biographical Sketch / Administrative History

Born in Spokane, Washington, in 1891, Wilder Penfield received his B.Litt. from Princeton University in 1913 and was a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford (B.A.1916). He received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1918. Studying under Sir Charles Sherrington at Oxford, Penfield became interested in the brain. From 1921 to 1928 he engaged in research and neurosurgery at the Presbyterian Hospital and served on the Medical Faculty of Columbia University. Appointed to the Medical Faculty of McGill University in 1928, he was Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery from 1934 to 1960. An endowment from the Rockefeller Foundation enabled him to establish the Montreal Neurological Institute (M.N.I.), which opened in 1934. At the M.N.I. Penfield made many innovations in neurosurgery including a surgical treatment for epilepsy. He devoted much of his research to the study of the physiology of the brain, speech memory and sensation. Besides his numerous scientific publications, Penfield wrote two novels and participated in a large number of professional organizations. Dr. Penfield was a member of the Board of Curators of the Osler Library.

Scope and Content

The Wilder Penfield Fonds contains the personal and professional records of Dr. Penfield prior to and during his career at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Not included

This electronic finding was only created to list material which has been determined to be of a personal nature, or which was created or received by Dr. Penfield as part of his research, writing, or professional relationships. Most of the material which has not been incorporated into this finding aid includes administrative records, published material, or material about Dr. Penfield which was added to the fonds after Dr. Penfield's death. In particular, these excluded materials include:

· 6 m of textual and photographic material assembled by Penfield's grandson Jefferson Lewis in preparation of his biography of Penfield, Something Hidden: a Biography of Wilder Penfield, Doubleday, 1981.
· Series A/M (Administration/McGill), found in boxes 1 to 5, consisting of 47 cm of textual records.
· Most of Series A/N (Administration/Neuro), found in boxes 5 to 23 and box 207, consisting of 2.51 m of textual records.
· Reprints of some of Dr. Penfield's published articles, found in boxes 122b, 122c, and 122d, consisting of 39 cm of textual records.
· Rockefeller Foundation reports, found in box 184, consisting of 24 cm of textual records.
· MNI Annual Reports, found in boxes 184, consisting of 14 cm of textual records.
· Books and Periodicals, found in boxes 196a, 196b, and 196c, consisting of 51 cm of textual records.
· Various reprints of articles not written by Dr. Penfield, found in boxes 173 and 200, consisting of 67 cm of textual records.
· Restricted case files, found in boxes 228a and 228b, consisting of 34 cm of textual records.
· Research files concerning Dr. Penfield, found in boxes 234 and 235, consisting of 65 cm of textual records.
· Photographs and negatives, found in box 241 and the negative drawer, consisting of 50 cm of graphic materials.
· Several diaries and scrapbooks, found in boxes 411 to 415, consisting of 72 cm of textual records and graphic materials. While included on the finding aid's Archive Series Descriptions page, this material is labelled "restricted" and is not included in the finding aid's database of file and item level descriptions.

Custodial History

Transferred by literary executors Dr. Theodore Rasmussen and Dr. William Feindel to the Osler Library in 1987. Officially donated to the Osler Library in 2011.

The Wilder Penfield Archive was established after Dr. Penfield's death in 1976. In his will, Penfield designated Drs. Theodore Rasmussen and William Feindel as his literary executors. Drs. Rasmussen and Feindel later served as Directors of the Montreal Neurological Institute. The Archive was subjected to thorough archival processing for the next decade at the Montreal Neurological Institute, notably under the supervision of Althea Douglas and her team. The contents of the Penfield collection at The Montreal Neurological Institute were summarized in the Guide to Archival Resources at McGill University, published in 1985 under the general editorship of Marcel Caya, the McGill University Archivist. In 1987 the Penfield Archive was transferred to the Osler Library under an agreement between the Board of Curators of the Osler Library and the Literary Executors of the Estate of Wilder Penfield. At that stage reprints, institutional records and duplicate material were separated from the Penfield Archive. In 2011 the Penfield Archive was formally donated to the Osler Library by the Literary Executors of the Estate of Wilder Penfield.


The documents are in English

Source of Supplied Title Proper

Title based on the documents in the fonds.