Percival Bailey (1892-1973) was a well known physician, scholar, educator, humanist and raconteur who left a great legacy to mankind. Born and raised in the humble surroundings of the Little Egypt region of southern Illinois, most of his extremely productive life was spent in Chicago. Doctorate degrees in anatomy and medicine were obtained respectively from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University Medical Schools in 1918. This was followed by a decade of extensive training in neurological surgery, neuropathology, neurology, psychiatry and neurophysiology in the United States, France and Germany (1919-1928). Often referred to as "Mr. Neurology," Bailey collaborated and interacted with the world experts in all these fields. Bailey was the prime mover and major stimulating force in neuroanatomical and neurophysiological primate studies as well as clinical neurological investigations and advances at the University of Chicago (1928-1938) and the University of Illinois at
Chicago (1939-1951). He co-founded the Neurology and Neurosurgery section of the Illinois Neuropsychiatric Institute (1941), and was the creator and founder of the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute and Authority (1951) as he later turned his attention to biological psychiatry. Believing psychoanalysis to be a negative force, Bailey hoped to "bring psychiatry back from the wilderness of words into which it had wandered," into the clearer light of scientific medicine. It follows that as a superb teacher and stimulator of the mind, Percival Bailey trained and influenced many men and women from America and abroad who were later to distinguish themselves in the neurosciences and behavioral sciences.
For much of his active career, Percival Bailey was regarded at the foremost neuropathologist in the United States. In conjunction with his surgical teacher, Harvey Cushing, Bailey was assigned the careful microscopic study of Cushing's large collection of human brain tumors. The 1926 classification of primary brain tumors derived from Bailey's work brought order out of chaos, and today remains, though somewhat modified, the basis for histopathologic diagnosis of brain tumors.
This collection of plastic embedded normal and pathological brain specimens were processed under the direction of Percival Bailey at the neuropathology laboratory on the 6th Floor, North Tower of the Illinois Neuropsychiatric Institute. A similar collection exists at the UCLA School of Medicine, where a student of Bailey's later formed a Brain Research Institute.