Neurophilosophy on Lobotomy

lobotomyThe blog “Neurophilosophy” has an interesting item on the history of prefrontal lobotomy. It is a rather tendentious piece, to be certain, but it contains lots of interesting details. Surprisingly (to me, anyway) it says that the first lobotomies were performed in the 1890s. Of course, the modern procedure was invented by Antonio Egas Moniz in the 1930s, and it became disturbingly popular in the 1940s and 1950s, especially in the US, most notoriously in the hands of Walter Freeman. In 1945, Freeman created the “ice-pick” version of procedure which he could complete in 10 minutes without anaesthesia. Freeman performed nearly 3,500 operations of this sort. The popularity of the lobotomy did not last long. In addition to its unpredictable outcomes, and the arrival of psychopharmaceuticals, Freeman’s showman-like stunts (performing two lobotomies at once, performing multiple lobotomies in rapid succession) led to its decline in the late 1950s.

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.