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Encyclopedia > Walter Freeman

Dr. Walter Jackson Freeman II (November 14, 1895May 31, 1972) was a physician, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, graduate of Yale and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, advocate and very prolific practitioner of psychosurgery, specifically lobotomy. He performed 3,439 such procedures, but his biggest "contribution" was to popularize the lobotomy as a legitimate form of psychosurgery. A neurologist and psychiatrist without surgical training, he initially worked with several surgeons, including James W. Watts. He and Watts performed the first procedure in 1936, and Freeman continued to work with other surgeons and subsequently alone until 1967, when the death of a patient ended his career. November 14 is the 318th day of the year (319th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 47 days remaining. ... 1895 (MDCCCXCV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar). ... May 31 is the 151st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (152nd in leap years), with 214 days remaining. ... 1972 (MCMLXXII) was a leap year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1972 calendar). ... Physician examining a child A physician is a person who practices medicine. ... Nickname: City of Brotherly Love Motto: Philadelphia maneto (Let brotherly love continue) Official website: http://www. ... Yale can refer to an educational institution: Yale University, one of the United States oldest universities. ... The University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn or UPenn, although the former is the preferred and recognized nickname of the University) is a private, nonsectarian, research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ... Psychosurgery is a term for surgeries of the brain or autonomic nervous system involving the severance of neural pathways to effect a change in behaviour, usually to treat or alleviate severe mental illness. ... Psychosurgery is the practice of performing surgery on the brain to treat or alleviate severe mental disease. ... Neurology is the branch of medicine that deals with the nervous system and disorders affecting it. ... Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that studies and treats mental and emotional disorders (see mental illness). ...

Frustrated by his lack of surgical training and seeking a faster and less invasive way to perform the procedure, Freeman invented the "ice pick" or transorbital lobotomy, which quite literally used an ice pick hammered through the back of the eye socket into the brain; Freeman was able to perform these alone, often in a few minutes. Though Freeman did initially use an ice pick for these operations, he later utilized an instrument created specifically for the operation called a leucotome. In 1948 Freeman developed a new technique which involved wrenching the leucotome in an upstroke after the initial insertion. This procedure placed great strain on the instrument and often resulted in the leucotome breaking off in the patient's skull. As a result, Freeman designed a new, stronger instrument, the orbitoclast. Icepick. ... Psychosurgery is a term for surgeries of the brain or autonomic nervous system involving the severance of neural pathways to effect a change in behaviour, usually to treat or alleviate severe mental illness. ... An Orbitoclast is surgical instrument used for performing lobotomies. ...

Freeman embarked on a national campaign in his van which he called his "lobotomobile" to "educate and train" surgeons working at state-run institutions. According to some, institutional care was hampered by lack of effective treatments and extreme overcrowding, and Freeman saw the transorbital lobotomy as an expedient tool to get large populations out of treatment and back into private life. Critics contend that Freeman was a sociopath who greatly enjoyed lobotomizing people. Antisocial personality disorder (APD) is a personality disorder which is often characterised by antisocial and impulsive behaviour. ...

Freeman's most notorious operation was on the ill-fated Rosemary Kennedy, who was permanently incapacitated by a lobotomy at age 23. The neutrality of this article is disputed. ...

The urban legend that Freeman operated on actress Frances Farmer has been conclusively disproven: the author who initially alleged this admitted in a court proceeding that he had made it up, Farmer's medical records show she was never operated on while institutionalized, and Freeman biographer Jack El-Hai (The Lobotomist), who had access to Freeman's patient records, found no reference to Farmer whatsoever. Frances Farmer Frances Elena Farmer (September 19, 1913, Seattle, Washington – August 1, 1970, Indianapolis, Indiana) was an American film actress. ...

Though Freeman has been pilloried for his tendency toward self-aggrandizement and the fact that he lobotomized so many people, some of his patients remained life-long friends and thanked him profusely for allowing them to return to relatively productive and peaceful lives. However, the procedure was highly controversial at the time and has only become more so in intervening years. It has been suggested that Pranger be merged into this article or section. ...

With the advent of antipsychotic drugs, notably Thorazine, in the mid-1950s, lobotomy fell out of favor as a treatment, and Freeman saw his reputation crumble quickly. His license to practice medicine was revoked when a patient he was lobotomizing died. He continued to drive cross country in his "lobotomobile" to visit his former patients until his death from cancer in 1972. Chlorpromazine was the first antipsychotic drug, used during the 1950s and 1960s. ...

See also

Athens Lunatic Asylum (Freeman's employer during some of his early surgeries) The Athens Lunatic Asylum began operation in 1874 in Athens, Ohio. ...


  Results from FactBites:
The Lobotomist by Jack El-Hai (581 words)
Walter Freeman and his neurosurgeon partner James Watts coined the term lobotomy in 1936 and championed the procedure.
Walter Freeman was the product of his environment, his impulse to innovate, and personal demons.
Freeman was a man of many faults, and his faults fascinate me. Arrogance, egotism, and stubbornness are just a few of them.
In Conversation - 16 June 2005  - Jack El-Hai, Biographer of Walter Freeman (2164 words)
Walter Freeman was a 'maverick medical genius' and 'one of the most scorned physicians of the twentieth century'.
Freeman always said that he wanted to be more exact in the terminology but actually I believe that he and Watts wanted to stake out their own territory and that by abandoning the term that Egas Moniz had used, leucotomy, they could claim this kind of surgery as their own.
I believe that Walter Freeman was a brilliant physician who cared about his patients, was a determined and curious investigator but I sometimes refer to him as 'King Lear in medical garb' because there was another side to him – he had some serious flaws of which he was completely unaware.
  More results at FactBites »



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