Bradford Cannon, 98; Surgeon Helped Develop Treatment for Burns

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Dr. Bradford Cannon, 98, a plastic surgeon who helped pioneer a new treatment for burns and used it on victims of the deadly 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston, died of pneumonia Dec. 20 at his daughter’s home in Lincoln, Mass.

A 1933 graduate of Harvard Medical School, Cannon was the first chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and is credited with saving the lives of soldiers maimed during World War II.

Cannon used a new method he and another surgeon developed to treat survivors of the fire that killed nearly 500 patrons at the Boston nightclub: He wrapped victims’ burns with petroleum-coated gauze containing boric acid, which preserved skin. The technique became a standard treatment for burns and replaced a more invasive method that used tannic acid, which destroyed skin.

Cannon, a native of Cambridge, Mass., graduated from Harvard College in 1929. While serving in the Army during World War II, he used cadaver skin as a temporary graft to treat a fighter pilot with severe burns on his head and hands. Although Cannon was not the first to use the then-radical procedure, the technique is now standard.