In memoriam: A Royal College Fellow honours his colleague, Jules Hardy
By: Dr. Gérard Mohr
Internationally renowned neurosurgeon Jules Hardy, OC, OQ, MD, FRCSC, passed away on October 28, 2022, at age 90. Originally from Sorel, Quebec, he spent most of his career at Hôpital Notre-Dame de Montréal. He was a full professor in the Department of Surgery at Université de Montréal and was a fellow of the Montreal General Hospital and McGill University until he retired.
We have lost one of the last giants of 20th century neurosurgery. His fundamental discoveries and technical innovations in the field of transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary tumours have had a global impact on the specialty and on neuroendocrinology in general.
In 1962, after spending a year in Paris at Hôpital Foch with Professor Gérard Guiot, a pioneer in transnasal surgery of the pituitary gland, Dr. Hardy was the first to use a surgical microscope in transnasal surgery. This approach made it possible to preserve the normal gland in most pituitary adenomas, preventing permanent hypopituitarism in patients. Soon after, Dr. Hardy used optical magnification to successfully identify and selectively remove the tiny lesions that he named “micro-adenomas,” restoring the fertility of hundreds of women suffering from amenorrhea-galactorrhea (prolactinomas) and Cushing syndrome (corticotroph adenomas). At the time, it was not yet possible to identify them through imaging. This revolutionary concept initially faced intense skepticism, and it took a decade of perseverance and persuasion for it to become universally accepted.
In 1971, when he was only 39, Dr. Hardy published an article in the prestigious Journal of Neurosurgery about his experience with 300 cases of pituitary gland microsurgery. This article continues to be a point of reference in the history of neurosurgery. The classification of pituitary gland tumours that Dr. Hardy developed with his friend and fellow neurologist Dr. Jean‑Lorrain Vézina remains in universal use today. Dr. Hardy developed the original bayonet-shaped micro instruments, tailored to fit a narrow, deep surgical corridor. These instruments are now used universally and are called “Hardy instruments.”
Dr. Hardy was a highly motivated, exceptional surgeon and a gifted communicator and teacher. From the 1970s through the year 2000, he made Montreal an international magnet for patients and neurosurgeons who wanted to learn his techniques. He gave countless talks and surgical demonstrations as a visiting professor in universities around the world. Thanks to Dr. Hardy and his colleague Dr. Françoise Robert, the endocrinology team at Hôpital Notre-Dame became internationally renowned. At the end of his career, he had performed over 3,500 transsphenoidal procedures, ranking him among the most accomplished transsphenoidal surgeons worldwide.
Dr. Hardy’s major contributions to medicine earned him many national and international distinctions, including the Order of Canada in 1987, the Ordre national du Québec in 1989, an honorary doctorate from the University of Guadalajara in 1982, Brazil’s Order of Rio Branco and the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies Medal of Honor in 1997, just to name a few of the most significant. The June 2012 meeting of the International Society of Pituitary Surgeons was held in Montreal in his honour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his introduction of pituitary microsurgery.
Renowned São Paulo neurosurgeon Raul Marino, who is also Dr. Hardy’s brother-in-law, said that Dr. Hardy was and will remain “the master surgeon of the master gland.” He leaves an immense scientific legacy to the medical and neurosurgical community in Quebec, across Canada and around the world, and his loved ones, his colleagues and his many former students will miss him immensely.
He is survived by his wife Vera (née Marino), his daughter-in-law Patricia and her children, his daughters from his first marriage Joanne, Guylaine, Julie and their children, and his sisters Louise and Hélène and their families.
Dr. Gérard Mohr, MD, FRCSC, FAANS(L)
Honorary Head of Neurosurgery, Jewish General Hospital, Montréal
Honorary Professor of Neurosurgery, McGill University