Bruce E. Northrup, 80, of Newtown Square, a Philadelphia neurosurgeon who specialized in ailments of the spine, died Saturday, July 13, of complications from Lewy body dementia at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

He had lived at Dunwoody Village for the last four years.

Dr. Northrup practiced neurosurgery at Pennsylvania State University’s Medical School in Hershey, the Neurological Institute in Fargo, N.D., the University of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was a professor of neurosurgery from 1978 to 2001.

While there, he published many scientific articles. He was a co-author of Surgical Approaches to the Spine, a textbook published in 1997.

He was president of the Pennsylvania Neurosurgical Society and the Cervical Spine Research Society. He also helped to create a European branch of the research group.

He taught neurosurgery in Italy, and once performed an entire operation while speaking to his students in Italian. “He learned the medical terms overnight and even asked for the instruments in Italian,” said his wife, Fran Curva Northrup.

Although not a Catholic, Dr. Northrup helped bring about the 2001 canonization of Leone Aviat, a Catholic nun who founded the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales, a French religious order. His participation was based on witnessing an apparent medical miracle.

He testified to a Vatican canonization tribunal that on March 25, 1992, a 14-year-old member of St. Bernadette Church in Drexel Hill was inexplicably cured of crippling spinal pain as the church’s parishioners offered up a novena to Aviat.

Dr. Northrup had treated the girl for a spinal disorder and believed her to be facing lifelong pain and paralysis.

“He couldn’t believe [his] eyes” when he examined her on March 31, 1992, and found the pain and stiffness gone, the Delaware County Daily Times reported in 2011.

"I was dubious with her first asymptomatic state, but with the passage of time and no recurrence of symptoms, I became convinced," he told the newspaper.

He attended Aviat’s canonization ceremony in Rome on Nov. 25, 2001, and was given a private audience with Pope John Paul II. “He was in awe of the whole thing,” his wife said. “He was very moved by it.”

An Episcopalian, the doctor was active in the Church of the Redeemer. He was a mentor and role model for family, friends, and young doctors.

“Bruce was a solid friend, and a real supporter in my early career at Jefferson,” wrote Dr. Eric L. Hume of Penn Medicine in an online condolence book. “We enjoyed working together, [sharing] the occasional car pool from Wynnewood, and [attending] Jefferson faculty parties. Bruce was a truly kind, caring, valued colleague.”

Dr. Northrup enjoyed biking, mountain climbing, canoeing, wind-surfing, scuba diving, and skiing. He excelled in karate and tai chi, and ran marathons. He also loved opera, wine, training dogs, cooking, and reading.

Born in Zanesville, Ohio, Dr. Northrup came from a medical family. His father, Edgar, was a general practitioner. His grandfather, Clarence, was a family doctor who made his rounds on horseback. His mother, Miriam Coughlin, was a neurosurgical nurse.

He graduated from Marietta {Ohio} High School in Marietta, Ohio; Amherst College; and Ohio State University Medical School. Afterward, he served two years in the Army during the Vietnam War as a MASH unit doctor. In 1968, he was selected to be the only neurosurgical resident at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

In 1970, he married Curva. They raised a family in Wynnewood before moving to Newtown Square.

He was a member of the American Legion, the Masons, the Philadelphia Rotary Club, the Philadelphia Dog Training Club, the 1827 Society of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and the Men’s Garden Club of Philadelphia. He completed the Barnes Foundation’s art appreciation curriculum after retiring in 2001.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Nicole Elizabeth Beer; a son, Michael Vincent Northrup; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Church of the Redeemer, 230 Pennswood Rd., Bryn Mawr. Burial is private.

Contributions may be made to the Northrup Family Medical Legacy Scholarship, Ohio State University, Development and Alumni Affairs, Box 183112, Columbus, Ohio 43218.