NINDS Retiree Lansdell Is Mourned
By Shannon E. Garnett
Dr. Herbert "Herb" Charles Lansdell, psychologist and former health scientist administrator in the Division of Fundamental Neurosciences, NINDS, died on Oct. 3 in Montreal, Canada, of ongoing complications from multiple system atrophy (Shy-Drager disease).
Lansdell joined NINDS in 1958 as chief of the section on clinical psychology in the Surgical Neurology Branch. In 1970, he moved from NINDS's intramural division to serve in the extramural community, becoming an HSA. His many contributions to the institute include identifying the brain areas that should not be removed during surgery for epilepsy.
According to Dr. F. Terry Hambrecht, special consultant to NIDCD on implantable auditory prostheses and former director of the NINDS Neural Prosthesis Program, Lansdell worked with Dr. John Van Buren, a former NINDS neurosurgeon, during epilepsy surgery in humans. Lansdell developed a series of tests that he administered to the patients while Van Buren probed the brain's cortex with electrodes prior to removing epileptic areas in the brain.
"The surgery was done while the patients were awake and under local anesthesia so the patients could provide verbal responses to Herb's questions," said Hambrecht, who worked with Lansdell at NINDS for many years. "When Dr. Van Buren probed the speech area of the brain, the tests revealed an area that is generally avoided for fear of causing permanent damage to the patients' ability to speak. Many people owe their ability to speak to Herb's tests."
Lansdell was born Dec. 22, 1922, in Montreal. He earned his bachelor of science degree in 1944 from the Sir George Williams Evening College (now Concordia University), and his Ph.D. in 1950 from McGill University, both in Montreal. From 1944 to 1945, he served in the Royal Canadian Navy.
He began his career in 1949 as a lecturer at Sir George Williams Evening College and as an assistant professor at McGill. A year later he became a defense research scientific officer at the Defense Research Medical Laboratories in Toronto. Before coming to NIH, Lansdell served as an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo from 1954 to 1958. He became a U.S. citizen in 1961.
"Herb was one of the first persons at NINDS to tap into the big computers in the NIH Computer Center (now CIT) via telephone lines," said Hambrecht. "He had great patience and would do anything for you. These traits soon led to his becoming an 'unofficial' resource for other NINDS employees who wanted to learn how to use Wylbur and other early services offered by the center."
Lansdell retired in 1996 after 38 years of service with NINDS, but remained with the institute as a guest researcher until 1998, when he moved back to his home town of Montreal to serve as a visiting scientist in the department of psychology at McGill.
Throughout his career, Lansdell's fascination with the brain led him to author or coauthor numerous scientific papers and book reviews. He also had a keen ability to interpret and create research studies in neuroanatomy and on the interrelationships of the brain.
He is survived by his wife Franga Stinson-Lansdell and his sons from a previous marriage, Grant Lansdell of Illinois and Bret Lansdell of Virginia.
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