Pictures Related to Transorbital Frontal
Lobotomies, the Athens (Ohio) State Hospital
and Dr. Walter Freeman

Gary E Cordingley
Computed tomographic (CT) x-ray images through the head of a patient who received a
transorbital frontal lobotomy from Dr. Walter Freeman in the mid-1950s (top 3 pictures and
left-hand image in 2nd row).  The scan was made in the mid-1990s.  The pictures represent
horizontal, cross-sectional slices, with the front of the head at the tops of the pictures and the back
of the head at the bottoms.  The images are arranged in sequence, with the top-left slice located
nearest the top of the head and the last slice nearest the middle of the head.  The dense, white,
oval, peripheral ring corresponds to the skull bone.  The gray component within the skull is mostly
brain, though with normal, fluid-filled chambers (ventricles) appearing black.  The dark areas in the
front 25-30% of the brain indicate damage to the frontal lobes caused by Dr. Freeman's surgery.  
The right-hand picture in the 2nd row is a comparison image, obtained in the same era through a
mostly normal brain, except for a small stroke on the left side of the picture.  This image is at a
level similar to the one above it.
North facade of part of the Athens State Hospital.  The tallest structure, toward the right side of
the picture, is the Administration Building and was architecturally the middle of the original 1874
construction.  The wings pictured on the left (east) correspond to the hospital's original male
wards, with symmetrically arranged female wards extending on the opposite side of the
Administration Building to the west.  The "Center Hospital" where Dr. Walter Freeman performed
his lobotomies lies beyond the picture's left-hand (eastern) margin.
Northeastern aspect of the Athens
State Hospital's Administration
building, presently used as an art
museum by Ohio University.
The left picture shows the east facade of "Center Hospital" in 1978 prior to a renovation completed
in 1980.  (Picture courtesy of George Eberts.)  Within this structure Dr. Walter Freeman performed
transorbital frontal lobotomies on over 200 patients between 1953-1957.  The Center Hospital had
been constructed in 1950 as the "Receiving Hospital" in which acute patients with the greatest
prospect of early discharge were treated.  From 1950-1978 this structure was physically separate
from the older building shown above it.  The 1980 renovation eliminated the eastern entryway and
connected the Center Hospital to the older hospital via a one-story walk-through.  The right-hand
picture shows the northeast aspect of the building following the renovation.
An electroconvulsive therapy machine from the
Athens State Hospital which might have been used
by Dr. Freeman to produce the drugless general
anesthesia required for his transorbital frontal
lobotomies.  The machine plugged into a wall
socket by means of the black power cord shown
on the right side of the picture. The red and
black-covered wires clipped onto metal paddles
which were applied to each side of the patient's
head.  After adjusting the dials, the operator
depressed the machine's red button and caused
electrical current to pass between the paddles.  
This current-flow through the patient's brain
produced a convulsive seizure.  After the
convulsive movements subsided, the patient was
temporarily comatose, and it was during this
interval that Dr. Freeman performed his surgery.  
The yellow ruler on the right side of the picture
measures 12 inches (30.5 cm).  The pictured
device now resides within the Athens County
Museum and Historical Center in Athens, Ohio.
A plastic skull (with its
top removed) and a
screwdriver show how
metal probes inserted
through the bony roofs
of the orbits
(eye-sockets) enabled
Dr. Walter Freeman to
access the brain's
frontal lobes.
Egas Moniz, M.D. (left),
originator of the frontal
lobotomy, inducts Walter
Freeman, M.D. (center) into
Lisbon's Academy of Science as
a foreign member in 1948.  In
1949 Dr. Moniz received the
Nobel Prize in Medicine for his
work.  (Picture courtesy of the
National Library of Medicine.)
(C) 2005 by Gary Cordingley
Walter Freeman's Frontal Lobotomies at Athens State Hospital


Les lobotomies frontales du Dr. Walter Freeman à l'Hôpital d’Athens dans l’état d'Ohio