Wilder Graves PENFIELD, MD

Director 1934 - 1960

PenfieldA nationwide poll voted the Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) founder and first director of the Montreal Neurological Institute as one of Canada's greatest citizens. Penfield was born in Spokane, Washington in 1891. He graduated from Princeton University and attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, studying with the eminent medical pioneers, Sir William Osler and Charles Sherrington. Penfield's medical degree was earned at Johns Hopkins University. After practicing surgery in New York City, Penfield continued his training in Spain and Germany where he learned revolutionary research and surgical techniques. He introduced these methods at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal when he arrived there in 1928.

With an award of $1.2 million from the Rockefeller Foundation and the support of private donors, foundations, and government and university officials, Penfield founded the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University in 1934. Then, as now, the MNI was a unique and much emulated centre for the close integration of neuroscience research and clinical practice. Over the next 26 years, Penfield and his colleagues established the world's premier clinical, research and training centre by developing surgical treatment for epilepsy, recording from the brain during surgery, establishing sophisticated behavioral tests for pre- and post-surgical evaluation, and making many other important advances. Retiring as Director in 1960, Penfield continued to write, adding novels and medical biographies to the list of his work. Before his death in 1976, Penfield's writing probed speculatively about the nature of human consciousness and the soul.

For more information, please visit the Wilder Penfield Digital Collection

The Neuro logo McGill logoMcGill University Health Centre logoKillam Laureates


The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) is a bilingual academic healthcare institution. We are a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering high-quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.



Facebook instagram x, formerly known as twitter linkedIn youtube

Back to top