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Lyman A. Brewer Papers 1926-1989
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Biography

Biographical Note

Lyman August Brewer III was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1907. He was educated at Amherst and received his medical training at the University of Michigan. Upon his graduation in 1932 Brewer spent several years learning thoracic surgery under the guidance of Evarts A. Graham and John Alexander, among others. In the late 1930s he established a practice in Los Angeles with Frank S. Dolley.

From 1942 to 1945 Brewer served as a surgeon in the Army Medical Corps in North Africa, Italy, and France. He helped establish the first US Army Chest Surgical Center at Bizerte, Tunisia, where with fellow surgeons Thomas Burford and Edward Churchill, spearheaded a review of thoracic injuries in the Mediterranean theater. The group insisted that chest surgery should be a separate specialty. They developed new techniques and established criteria for emergency thoracotomy and for the management of thoracic and thoracoabdominal injuries that would become the world standard. Brewer's classic paper, "The wet lung in war casualties" (1946) was born from his military experience. It became further defined during the Vietnam War as adult respiratory distress syndrome. Among his discoveries was the use of pressure breathing to combat pulmonary edema, development of the Bennett ventilator, and the use of pericardial fat to buttress the bronchial stump (Brewer fat graft)

After the war he returned to private practice but only as a secondary activity to his teaching. He held joint appointments at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine. Dr. Brewer was also very active in international surgical organizations, serving as president of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and the Pacific Coast Surgical Association. In 1975, a former student honored him by establishing a symposium in cardiothoracic surgery which he became the Lyman A. Brewer III International Surgical Society. Its first meeting was held in Beijing, China in 1980.

Brewer authored 7 books and more than 100 scientific articles on aspects of thoracic surgery as well as some dealing with the history of surgical techniques. In the early 1960s he collaborated with his former Army colleague Thomas Burford on Thoracic Surgery, a two-volume contribution to the U.S. Army Medical Department's Surgery in World War II series. This included a unique study of 167 thoracic casualties 16 years after the war and helped confirm the value of Brewer and Burford's pioneering work.

Brewer died in California in 1988.

[portions excerpted from Carter, Richard. "Lyman A Brewer III (1907-1988): Surgeon-scientist, Inspirational Teacher, and Humanist", Annals of Thoracic Surgery (1998), v.65:2132-4]