McGill professor Ronald Melzack, BSc’50, MSc’51, PhD’54, and MIT professor Patrick Wall changed the way we think about pain. In their seminal 1965 paper, the duo presented the Gate Control Theory of Pain, which states that rather than travelling straight to the brain, pain signals are modulated by other sensory inputs.
Melzack also developed the McGill Pain Questionnaire, which is now used throughout the world. This stemmed from Melzack’s realization that patients in pain often had a hard time putting what they were going through into words. He made the process easier for them, offering over 100 descriptions to choose from such as “shooting,” “stabbing” and “creeping”. These distinctions are important in helping physicians make more accurate diagnoses.
For his work, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995, and the Ordre national du Québec in 2000.