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A Lobotomy Timeline

Before his death in 1972, Dr. Walter Freeman performed transorbital lobotomies on some 2,500 patients in 23 states. Read a brief history of Dr. Walter Freeman and lobotomies.

Nov. 14, 1895: Walter Jackson Freeman II is born.

1924: Freeman arrives in Washington, D.C., to direct labs at St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

Nov. 12, 1935: Neurologist Egas Moniz performs first brain surgery to treat mental illness in Portugal. He calls the procedure, "leucotomy."

Sept. 14, 1936: Freeman modifies Moniz's procedure, renames it the "lobotomy," and with his neurosurgeon partner, James Watts, performs the first ever prefrontal lobotomy in the United States. His patient is Alice Hood Hammatt, a housewife from Topeka, Kan.

1939: While working in his office, Egas Moniz is shot multiple times by a patient. He survives but is left partly paralyzed.

1945: Freeman begins experimenting with a new way of doing the lobotomy, after hearing about a doctor in Italy who accessed the brain through the eye-sockets.

Jan. 17, 1946: Walter Freeman performs the first transorbital lobotomy in the United States on a 29-year-old housewife named Sallie Ellen Ionesco in his Washington, D.C., office.

1949: Egas Moniz wins the Nobel Prize for lobotomy. He's nominated by Walter Freeman.

1950: Watts expresses disapproval of the transorbital lobotomy procedure, and the two eventually break their long-time partnership. Freeman barnstorms the nation's state hospitals performing and teaching the transorbital lobotomy.

July 1952: Freeman performs 228 transorbital lobotomies in a two-week period in West Virginia for a state-sponsored lobotomy project, dubbed "Operation Ice Pick" by newspapers.

1954: Era of widespread hospital psychosurgery fades away with introduction of chlorpromazine (Thorazine). Freeman moves to California and sets up an office in Sunnyvale.

1955: Freeman's mentor and idol, Egaz Moniz, dies at the age of 81

Dec. 16, 1960: Freeman lobotomizes Howard Dully at Doctor's General Hospital in San Jose, Calif.

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February 1967: Freeman performs his last transorbital lobotomy on a longtime patient, Helen Mortensen. It's her third lobotomy by him. She dies from a brain hemorrhage following the procedure. Freeman is banned from operating.

1968: Freeman retires and embarks on cross-country follow-up studies of his lobotomy patients.

May 31, 1972: Freeman dies of cancer at age 76.