Roberts Bartholow: The progenitor of human cortical stimulation and his contentious experiment

Devi P. Patra, Ryan A. Hess, Karl R. Abi-Aad, Iryna M. Muzyka, Bernard R. Bendok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Roberts Bartholow, a physician, born and raised in Maryland, was a surgeon and Professor in Medicine who had previously served the Union during the Civil War. His interest in scientific research drove him to perform the first experiment that tested the excitability of the human brain cortex. His historical experiment on one of his patients, Mary Rafferty, with a cancerous ulcer on the skull, was one of his great accomplishments. His inference from this experiment and proposed scientific theory of cortical excitation and localization in humans was one of the most critically acclaimed topics in the medical community, which attracted the highest commendation for the unique discovery as well as criticism for possible ethical violations. Despite that criticism, his theory and methods of cortical localization are the cornerstone of modern brain mapping and have, in turn, led to countless medical innovations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE6
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Brain localization
  • Cortical excitability
  • History of brain mapping
  • Human cortical mapping
  • Mary Rafferty
  • Roberts Bartholow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Roberts Bartholow: The progenitor of human cortical stimulation and his contentious experiment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this