Category Archives: Mad Psychologists

Walter Freeman: Ice Pick Lobotomist

freeman_profile2Neurologist Walter Freeman strapped 29-year-old Ellen Ionesco to the operating table and delivered coma-inducing jolts of electroshock to her brain. Depressed, manic, violently suicidal, Ionesco was just the sort that was thought to benefit from traditional shock therapy—only Freeman wanted to do more than just shock her.1

Holding an ice pick to Ionesco’s tear duct, the doctor began chiseling into her eye socket. With an audible crack the thin layer of bone separating Ionesco’s brain gave way, and the ice pick sunk deep into her frontal lobe. Freeman then swished the metal rod back and forth, severing the neural pathways he believed were the root of Ionesco’s illness.1

This was in 1946 people. “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chicken’s” was tearing up the jukebox charts. Future sitcom legend Ed O’Neil was born amid thunderous hooting and canned applause. And Walter Freeman, who would go on to perform thousands of similar operations in the coming years, was well on his way to garnering one of the more sinister nicknames in modern medicine—The Ice Pick Lobotomist. Continue reading

Mad Scientist #1: Harry Harlow

As far as careers go, comparative psychologist Harry Harlow had a pretty good run of things. The guy founded and chaired the internationally renowned Primate Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He generated over 320 research papers during his 50+ year career, won the National Medal of Science, and was even elected president of the American Psychological Association back in the 50s.

He’s also been described as a “sadistic rapist,” single-handedly responsible for the rise of the animal liberation movement. Continue reading