Over the past several decades, our understanding of the pathophysiology of hindbrain hernias has markedly increased. Additionally, with the advent of MRI, diagnosis of these entities is common. Although the history of the discovery of what are now known as the Chiari malformations is well known, publications regarding the historical surgical treatment of these is, to our knowledge, not extant. Many have attributed the first successful patient series to Gardner in the 1950s. However, and unknown to many, the first description of a hindbrain decompression was in 1930 by the Dutchman Cornelis Joachimus van Houweninge Graftdijk. This neurosurgeon also added to our understanding the pathophysiology of hindbrain herniation and its relationship to raised intracranial pressure. The present paper reviews the contributions of this early pioneer of neurosurgery. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.