Egas Moniz
A Brief Biography

Picture of Egas Moniz Antônio Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz, Portuguese physician and neurosurgeon, was born in Avença, Portugal, on Nov. 29, 1847. He was the inventor of prefrontal leucotomy (also known as frontal lobotomy) as a surgical approach to the radical treatment of several kinds of mental disease; or psychosurgery. For this work, Moniz received the Nobel Prize in 1949, jointly with the Swiss physiologist Walter Hess

Moniz studied medicine in the University of Coimbra and neurology in Bordeaux and Paris. He returned to the University of Coimbra as Chairman of Neurology (1902), but soon left it to enter politics as a deputy in the Portuguese parliament (1903--17), as minister of Foreign Affairs (1918) and later as Ambassador to Spain, under the first Republic (1918-1919). He left politics, returned to the University of Lisbon, where, from 1921 to 1944, he was professor of neurology. In 1927, he developed the technique of contrasted x-ray cerebral arteriography to diagnose several kinds of brain disorders, such as tumors and congenital malformations.

He 1936, Egas Moniz and his associate Almeida Lima developed for the first time a surgical technique to interrupt the nerve fibers which connect the thalamus (a relay for sensory information coming into the brain) to the prefrontal cortex (already known at the time as a brain structure involved in higher intellectual functions of the brain, and in emotions, as well). His technique was widely used around the world in the next decade, and Moniz received many honours and international recognition, culminating with the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Egas Moniz became an invalid due to a shot to his spine, fired by one of his patients. He died in Lisbon, Portugal, on Dec. 13, 1955.

To Know More

From: The History of Psychosurgery
Author: Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD
Source: Brain & Mind Magazine, June 1997

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