Henry Thomas Ballantine Jr. was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1912. He graduated from Princeton University in 1933, and from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1937. He entered the MGH as a surgical house officer in 1938, and became assistant resident in neurosurgery for nine months in 1941. During World War II he served with the Second Auxiliary Surgical Group in North Africa and Italy. His surgical team remained in the combat zone from the invasion of Sicily to the end of the war After the war, Ballantine pursued his neurosurgical training at the University of Michigan Hospital under the direction of Max Peet from 1945 to 1947. There he also received a Master of Science degree and was Instructor in Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan Hospital Medical School.
He was appointed to the neurosurgical staff of the MGH in 1947 and worked with W. J. Mixter on the treatment of the ruptured intervertbral disc until the latter's retirement. He has written two monographs on disc surgery and designed a laminectomv retractor that bears his name. In 1949 he entered upon a fruitful period of collaboration with Richard Bolt and Leo Beranek of the Acoustics Research Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Together, they investigated a possible use of ultrasound for intracranial diagnostic purposes. Subsequently, they formed the Medical Acoustics Research Group at Massachusetts General Hospital and over the next 12 years basic information concerning the interaction of ultrasound with living tissue was gathered.
He also wrote extensively on the use of radical surgery to treat brain abscesses, and the use of cingulotomy as therapy for severe disabling psychiatric illness and intractable pain. In 1969, he was awarded an honorary D.Sc. from Suffolk University in recognition of his work with ultrasound and cingulotomy. In addition, Ballantine has been a leader in state and national medical organizations. He was a trustee of the American Medical Association and president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. His involvement in the medico-socio-political problems in the delivery of medical care led him to the formation of the Commonwealth Institute of Medicine, of which he was president from 1972 to 19753, and led to 16 publications on medical quackery, health care financing systems, and discussions on medical ethics. President Reagan appointed him to the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research in 1982, and he served on this Commission until it finished its work in 1983.
At the time of Ballantine¡¦s appointment as Clinical Professor of Surgery Emeritus, he received a letter from Derek C. Bok, then President of Harvard University. It read in part: "We feel very fortunate that during a distinguished career in neurosurgery, you have been able to share your knowledge and skills with so many of our students. The international recognition which has come to you for pioneering work in the use of ultrasound in neurosurgery and for the use of cingulotomy in the treatment of patients with psychiatric disturbances and intractable pain has brought honor to Harvard."
Thomas Ballantine Jr. passed away on April 14, 1996.
Excerpted from: "Neurosurgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital - 1909 to 1983 - A Short History and Alumni Record. Edited by Dr Nicholas T. Zervas, M.D. and the Neurosurgical Staff -THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEUROSURGERY AT MGH (1909-1983) - [extract dated 1983]
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