Friday, February 13, 2009

TV alert: The Lobotomist on PBS this Monday

This Monday PBS' American Experience is re-airing the 2008 documentary "The Lobotomist" (check your local listings and the companion web site). The film is partly based on the book of the same name by journalist Jack El-Hai which has its own excellent web site. This is the story of Dr. Walter Freeman, the doctor who performed nearly 3,000 transorbital lobotomies (some with an ice pick) in the 1940s and 1950s. The Washington Post reviewer noted that "as the riveting documentary makes clear, Freeman's operation reflected the neurologist's peculiar combination of zealotry, talent, hubris and, as one of his trainees noted, craziness. Sometimes Freeman, who relished putting on a show, used a carpenter's mallet instead of a surgical hammer during demonstrations of his operation. At other times, he would operate left-handed rather than right-handed."

For the classroom there's an even better option -- the PBS web site also has the full film available, broken down in chunks from 2-7 minutes.

Did anyone see it the first time around and have thoughts to share? Or showed it to students? Please post your reactions, suggestions and other feedback in the comments section.

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