Montreal

Dr. Wilder Penfield honoured by Google on 127th birthday

To celebrate the 127th birthday of Dr. Wilder Penfield, the Montreal neurosurgeon and researcher, Google has doodled him onto their search page banner with an image of burnt toast and the brain.

Montreal neurosurgeon and researcher remembered as trailblazer in neuroscience

Dr. Wilder Penfield founded the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University. (Osler Library of the History of Medicine/McGill University)

To celebrate the 127th birthday of Dr. Wilder Penfield, the Montreal neurosurgeon and researcher, Google has doodled him onto their search page banner with an image of burnt toast and the brain.

Penfield developed a groundbreaking surgical treatment for epilepsy which became known as the "Montreal procedure."

He became a household name for many Canadians who grew up watching a popular Heritage Minute on television in the 1990s, in which Wilder stimulated the brain of a woman suffering from seizures while she was conscious.

"He drew the roadmap of the human brain," the mini-documentary concludes.

'Burnt toast'

Penfield was born in Spokane, Washington and came to Montreal to teach at McGill University in 1928. The city's first neurosurgeon, he founded the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) in 1934.

McGill offered Penfield the opportunity to advance the treatment of epilepsy, "but at the same time, be able to do fundamental research," Dr. Richard Leblanc, an MNI neurosurgeon, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Leblanc called him a trailblazer in the field of neuroscience.

"He realized that what makes us human is the function of the cerebral cortex. When you operate on someone you have to have respect for the cerebral cortex," he said.

Like the Heritage Minute, the Google doodle references how Penfield was able to target the part of the brain responsible for seizures by looking for an area which triggered the smell of burnt toast.

Penfield died in 1976. But his name lives on in Montreal: Doctor Penfield Avenue, the eastbound street on the flank of Mount Royal, was named for him in 1978.

The Penfield Building at John Abbott College houses the CEGEP's engineering technology and computer labs.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak