McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster's first surgeon cut a swath for educational innovation

Published: February 14, 2014

Dr. C. Barber Mueller, the first chair of the Department of Surgery of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, has died. He was 97.

Mueller, who had said he wanted to be remembered as an educator by profession and a surgeon by trade, had a long and varied career that included being a prize-winning scholar, a decorated war veteran, an author, a surgeon, a professor, the chair of surgery at two medical schools and an avid supporter of McMaster’s Health Sciences Library.

A McMaster event to honour Mueller is being arranged. He died Feb. 13 after a brief illness, and is survived by his children, John (Celeste), Ann (David), Richard and William, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Jean in 2009.

Born in Illinois, Mueller received his medical education at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri through a scholarship. He was a decorated veteran of World War II serving in the South Pacific, including Iwo Jima. He was in the first class of Markle Scholars, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and chairman of surgery at the State University of New York.

He joined McMaster in 1967 as the medical school was being established and he was active in the development of the innovative problem-based, small group learning method that revolutionized medical education around the world. He was also instrumental in the design of the Health Sciences Centre.

Following his five-year term as chair of the Department of Surgery, Mueller served as a professor of surgery until he retired in 1983 as a professor emeritus. He has received honorary degrees from three universities including McMaster, and been inducted into the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Community of Distinction.

He remained active after his retirement, founding the Friends of the Health Sciences Library, a group dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the library. For his contributions, the elegant C. Barber Mueller History of Health and Medicine Room created within the library during the 2006 renovation, was named in his honour. He authored two books, including EXCALIBUR: The Sword of Science That Reshaped the World which was published when he was 95.

His family has asked that memorial donations be sent to McMaster University in support of the Health Sciences Library.

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