Eulogy for John Charnley McKinley

John Charnley McKinley-1891-1950

Maurice B. Visscher*
Minneapolis, Minnesota


The most fitting tribute to a modest man is the simple story of the work he did and of the way, he did it.  John Charnley McKinley played a leading part in the building of a great medical teaching and research center.  The role he played was primarily that of a working scientist.  He took an important part in policy making too, but he preferred to remain in the background, working through committees and faculty organization rather than by entering into public controversy.

John Charnley McKinley was born November 8, 1891, in Duluth, Minnesota.  He earned the B.S., A.M., M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota.  There he became assistant professor of neuropathology in 1921, professor of neurology in 1929; he was head of the department of medicine from 1934 to 1943 and of the department of neuropsychiatry thereafter until 1945 when he was incapacitated by illness.  He was a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow in Germany in 1928- 29.  He was secretary of the State Board of Examiners in Basic Sciences from 1931 till 1946.  He was a director of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.  He made important contributions to knowledge in the field of neurotropic virus diseases and in electromyography.  His last notable achievement was the development, with his colleagues, of the Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory.  He was productive both in neurology and psychiatry.  He died on January 3, 1950 after a long illness. 

One Hippocratic injunction to the good physician was to teach the youth aspiring to learn the art of healing.  In the day of Hippocrates medicine was more art than science, but then as now knowledge was the basis of the most enlightened art.  The life work of Dr. McKinley fulfilled the age-old tradition of the good physician.  He spent his life in the three-fold task of caring for the sick, of advancing the front of knowledge and of teaching the science and the art of medicine to the generation that was to follow his.  He took into his work the three basic qualities, which any person must have to succeed in such a task.  He had superior native intelligence.  He acquired an unusual basic training in the science and skills of medicine.  He possessed the deep human sympathy, which made him sacrifice himself for his patients, his pupils and his science.  Ability, training and motivation are the indispensables for significant achievement which he possessed.

 His scientific ability was not simply that of the imitator.  It was rather that of the innovator.  He had imagination and insight as well as a remarkable memory and sharp Critical judgment.  He used these faculties in his research and in his institutional organizational activities. 

His social idealism made him decide to spend his life in teaching and research. His humanitarianism also drove him to accept larger administrative responsibilities, such as the temporary chairmanship of the department of medicine, than he was personally anxious to assume.  He held the post only until a younger man, whom he had helped choose, could be groomed properly for that important position.  He gladly relinquished it when, the interests of the medical school as a whole could be better served by his stepping aside.  A team worker, he did not play to the galleries, but to advance the interests of society.  He was willing to sacrifice himself to public exposure for a good cause, but he was not interested in publicity or fame for himself. 

One of Dr. McKinley’s great contributions to human welfare was his service as secretary of the Minnesota Basic Medical Science Board.  This position not only was time-consuming and boresome in its routines, but it exposed him to the danger of bodily assault at the hands of persons- mainly chiropractors and osteopaths- who were prevented from exploiting the people of Minnesota with medical quackery by virtue of the operation of the so-called Basic Science Law. 

The author of this statement had the privilege of association with Charnley McKinley in several ways over twenty-seven years.  Dr. McKinley was his laboratory instructor in neuro-anatomy and one of his teachers in clinical neurology.  He was also a faculty colleague for fourteen years.  It is on the basis of such day to day contact that these words are written.

Over many years Charnley McKinley and I worked together in planning projects for improvement in medical education, for filling gaps in staff for teaching and research, for improvement in administrative arrangements within the University, for improvement in opportunities for young recruits to medical science, and in many other projects.  I can testify to the fact that his basic motivation was entirely unselfish.  He was a man, not with a dream, but with a well-conceived mission.  He had a purpose and it was not related to the personal welfare of J. C. McKinley.  His purpose was to advance human welfare through improvements sn teaching and research in medicine at the University of Minnesota.

He played a very important part in the years 1919 - 1945 in making the Medical School of the University of Minnesota a leader in medical progress.  He stood
always for superior scholarship, for high standards and
for academic freedom.

Any life that ends at fifty-four is a tragedy.  It is a tragedy in Charnley McKinley case because the world, and especially his community, so badly needs men with his courage, his insight and his vigor to save itself from the calamities which mental mediocrity, social insensitivity and personal laziness may impose upon society.  The medical profession, perhaps as much as any social group, needs brains more than brawn, and humility more than hate.  Charnley McKinley has left his indelible mark upon 20th century medicine through his contributions to education, to research and to the elevation of the standards of medical practice in Minnesota.  His life was regrettably short but his achievements were nevertheless great.  His example should be a challenge to young men entering the profession of medicine to comparable accomplishment.



Lethargic Encephalitis: Symptomatology and Histoparhology (with E. M. Hammes) Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 26, pp. 60-75, July, 1920.

The Intraneural Plexus of Fasciculi and Fibers in the Sciaric Nerve. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, Vol. 6, pp. 377-399, October, 1921.

Lesions in the Brain of a Patient with Postencephalitic Paralysis Agitans. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, Vol. 9, pp. 47-58, January, 1923.

Subacute Combined Degeneration of the Spinal Cord Without Pernicious Anemia: Report of Two Cases with Autopsy Findings (with L. B. Dickey). Journal.Lancet, July 15, 1925.

Neuron Destruction in Postencephalitic Paralysis Agitans Micrometric Study of the Lenticular Region and Substantia Nigra (with Lawrence R. Gowan). Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, vol. 15, pp. 1.27, January, 1926.

Detorticate Rigidity (with N. J. Berkwitz, R. E. Morris, F. H. Scott). Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, vol. 24, pp. 536.538, 1927.

Sodium Ricinoleace and Active Immunity Against Experimental Monkey Poliomyelitis (with W. P. Larson). Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, vol. 24, pp. 297.300, 1927.

A Simple Method for Determination of Threshold Value of Vibration Sense. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, vol. 25, pp. 827-831, 1928.

Quantitative Studies on Human Muscle Tonus (with N. Joseph Berkwitz). Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, vol. 19, pp. 1036-1056, June, 1928.

Ueber die Innervation und Tãtigkeit der Atemmuskeln (with Kurt Wachholder). Pfiügers Archiv für die gesamte Physiologle des Menschen und der Tiere, 222 Band. 5. und 6. Heft, August, 1929.

Ueber das sogenannte Bremsungsphanomen in Muskeldehnungs. kurven (with Kurt Wachholder). Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 1929, 121 Band. 1. und 2. Heft.

The Medical Library. Hospital Progress, vol. 12, No. 7, July, 1931.

Diffuse Subcortical Sclerosis of the Brain. Minnesota Medicine, vol. 14, p. 62, January, 1931.

A Proposal of Wholesale Passive Immunization Against Poliornyelitis Epidemics. Medicine, vol. 14, p. 921, October, 1931.

Electric Action Potentials in Muscles During Recording of Mechanical Tonus Tracings (with Nathaniel J. Berkwitz). Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, vol. 29, pp. 272.285, February, 1933.

Rigidity Following Ablation of the Motor Cortex in Monkeys (with Nathaniel J. Berkwitz). Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, vol. 78, No. 6, December, 1933, pp. 604-626.

Modification of the Electromyogram of the Simple Reaction by Cerebellar Lesions (with S. R. Hathaway). Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, vol. 34, pp. 783-787, 1936.

The Problem of Acute Poliomyelitis. Journal-Lancer, vol. 60, No. 10, p. 458, October, 1940.

A Multiphasic Personality Schedule (Minnesota): Construction of the Schedule (with S. R. Hathaway). Journal of Psychology, vol. 10, pp. 249-254, 1940.

A Multiphasic Personality Schedule (Minnesota): II. A Differential Study of Hypochondriasis (with S. R. Hathaway). Journal of Psychology, vol. 10, pp. 255-268, 1940.

Treatment of Encephalitis (with A. B. Baker). Journal-Lancet, vol. 61, pp. 386-387, September, 1941.

The Problem of Poliomyeliris. One of the thirteenth annual series of public lectures sponsored by the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of the Sigma Xi.
A Multiphasic Personality Schedule (Minnesota): III. The Measurements of Symptomatic Depression (with S. R. Hathaway). Journal of Psychology, vol. 14, pp. 73-84, 1942.

A Multiphasic Personality Schedule (Minnesota): IV. Psych. asthenia (with S. R. Hathaway). Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 614-624, October, 1942.

The Identification and Measurement of the Psychoneuroses in Medical Practice Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (with S. R. Hathaway). Journal of American Medical Association, vol. 122, No. 3, May, 1943.

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory: V. Hysteria, Hypoinania and Psychopathic Deviate (with S. R. Hathaway). Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 28, No. 2, April, 1944.

The Present Status of Poliomyelitis Management (with I. Mc. Quarrie, W. O and M. B. Visscher). Journal-Lancet, vol. 64, pp. 249.250, 1944.

Editor, Minnesota State Neurological Association Packet on Psychiatry for General Practitioners, November, 1944.

An Outline of Neuropsychiatry. Fourth edition. John S. Swift Co., Inc., St. Louis, Missouri, 1944.