Welcome to the lobotomy . Men had the right to demand their wives or daughters be lobotomized against their will.   (Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, had his daughter


John F Kennedy's daughter lobotomized



The Fascinating History of the Lobotomy

Most of us have heard this word and many of us have seen the horrifying pictures and even heard the odd joke about lobotomies.

But most of us don’t know the history behind this interesting procedure.  During the 20th century a lobotomy was actually used as a treatment for serious mental illnesses and other chronic conditions, such as chronic pain. 

The lobotomy was not some medieval procedure. It was actually performed all the way up to the mid-eighties in the United States, Great Britain and several other European countries. 



                                                       Dr. Antonio Egas Moniz

Dr. Aantonio Egas Moniz


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

a young boy lobotomized by Dr. Freeman



In 1967,  Dr. Freeman performed a lobotomy on a patient who suffered a brain hemorrhage and died as a result of the procedure. Freeman was then banned from performing any more lobotomies. 

Between 1940 and 1950 the United States performed between 40,000 and 50,000 lobotomies (The exact number is not known) but it was more than any other country. Germany and Japan outlawed the procedure in the 1950’s.


Yankton, SD Frontal Lobotomy - 1949

Yankton, SD Frontal Lobotomy