Head-and-Shoulder-Hunting in the Americas: Walter Freeman and the Visual Culture of Lobotomy

An Experimental Humanities Mellon-Supported Lecture

co-sponsored by STS, Historical Studies, and American Studies

Between 1936 and 1967, Walter Freeman, a prominent neurologist, lobotomized as many as 3,500 Americans. Freeman was also an obsessive photographer, taking patients’ photographs before their operations and tracking them down years — even decades — later. In this presentation, Miriam Posner details her efforts to understand why Freeman was so devoted to this practice, using computer-assisted image-mining and -analysis techniques to show how these images fit into the larger visual culture of 20th-century psychiatry.

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