A neurologist named Antonio Egas Moniz was the first doctor to perform a leucotomy in 1935, at Lisbon Hospital in Portugal. This operation was used to treat mental illness and was the process of drilling holes into the patient’s skull to access the brain. In 1949 he received the Nobel Prize for his hard work.
The Swiss neurologist Gottlieb Burckhardt, was the first to discover that mental illness could be improved by operating on the brain. He conducted a study on six schizophrenia patients and revealed a 50 percent success rate on these patients based on their post-op reduced anxiety.
In America, Psychiatrist Walter Freeman Performed the first prefrontal lobotomy in 1936, on a woman in Kansas. He renamed the surgery “lobotomy.” Dr. Freeman held the belief that severing certain nerves in the brain would stabilize personality, but he searched to find a way to perform the lobotomy without drilling into the patient’s skull.
In 1946 he performed a transorbital lobotomy (also referred to as the “ice pick” lobotomy). He once performed 25 of these “ice pick lobotomies” in one day. Throughout his career, he performed 2,500.
To the amazement and shock of his audience he would sometimes insert the ice pick instrument simultaneously in both of the patient’s eyes. First, he would use electroshock to render his patients unconscious. He would then insert his “ice-pick” above the patient’s eyeball and through the orbit of the eye. He moved the instrument back and forth and repeated the procedure in the patient’s other eye.
Unfortunately, there were some tragic results, but there were also some successful results too. Lobotomies were also performed on children and one case of a 12-year-old boy was particularly notable. The lobotomy was performed by Dr. Freeman and the patient’s name was Howard Dully. Howard was a typical young boy, but his stepmother was tired of his school reporting that he was daydreaming in class, not listening to the teacher and even refusing to go to bed. When Dully was 56 he was interviewed and he stated, “If you saw me you’d never know I’d had a lobotomy. The only thing you’d notice is that I’m very tall and weigh about 350 pounds. But I’ve always felt different — wondered if something’s missing from my soul. I have no memory of the operation, and never had the courage to ask my family about it…”
A young boy undergoing a lobotomy