In 1935 Portuguese doctor Egas Moniz, learned of an experiment where the removal of the frontal lobes of two chimpanzees resulted in reduced violent behavior, making them more compliant. The doctor decided to repeat this experiment with humans and shortly after performing this procedure on unsuspecting patients, he published a paper demonstrating a method he believed to be an innovative way to treat mentally ill people. Today, Moniz is remembered for discovering the lobotomy, one of the most shameful and tragic procedures in medicine.
From the year 1945 to 1947 there were around 2,000 lobotomies performed. However, the numbers skyrocketed to 18,000 after Moniz was awarded the Nobel Prize Medicine for his discovery in 1949. There were many factors as to why this surgery was deemed acceptable back in the day. Mainly due to the fact that there was no medication or therapy effective enough to treat people who suffered from various mental illness. However, the misinformation and active campaigning for the effectiveness of lobotomy had a big impact too.
A physician, Walter Freeman, helped popularize this procedure in the US. With no surgical training, Freeman decided to change the operation, and instead of drilling holes in the skull, he stabbed patients' brains with an icepick through the eye socket. Freeman perfected this method to the point where it only took him 12 minutes to perform it. He traveled around the country in a van called the Lobotomobile and had no problem performing it in non-sterile environments.
However, he and other doctors who performed this procedure often overlooked the gruesome side effects lobotomies caused, mainly focusing on the appearance of the patients and relieving the discomfort the illnesses had caused to their family members. This attitude is highlighted in the photographs Freeman took of his patients and used them as an argument in favor of lobotomies. Scroll below to see them.