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Walter Freeman correspondence

Identifier: MSS 2/014-01

Scope and Contents

This small collection of letters from Walter Freeman to two Japanese neurosurgeons, Mizuho Nakata and Sadao Hirose, gives some indication of Freeman's own views on psychosurgery and lobotomy and is also filled with personal information on Freeman's career and family. There are no original items in the collection, only photocopies of original material in the possession of either Franklin Freeman or Sadao Hirose.

The 1948 letter to Mizuho Nakata from Walter Freeman discusses a case of hyperkinesia in a child; enclosed is a request from Freeman to Lieutenant General Richard Southerland to allow Nakata to attend an international conference on psychosurgery in Lisbon in 1948.

The bulk of the collection is Freeman's letters to Sadao Hirose, 1955-1972. Their acquaintance seems to have started in 1955, but they did not meet until Hirose's visit to the United States in 1961. Although they met rarely, the two neurosurgeons maintained a close friendship until Freeman's death.

In the correspondence, Freeman discusses his experiences with lobotomies and the use of drug therapy as an alternative to psychosurgery as well as the general hostility in America towards psychosurgery in the 1960s. He describes some of his lobotomy operations and follow up studies he pursued after his retirement from active practice. Freeman was also interested in suicide among psychiatrists and psychoanalysts.

The remainder of information contained in the letters to Hirose is personal. Freeman gives news of his family, including accounts of the death of his son Robert Fitz Randolph in 1969 and of his wife, Marjorie, in 1970, and an accident suffered by his aunt, Dora Keen Handy, in 1963. Freeman also describes his retirement and final illness. The last item in the collection is a telegram from Marjorie Lorne Canter giving news of her father's death.


  • 1848; 1955-1972


Biographical / Historical

Walter Jackson Freeman II was born in Philadelphia on November 14, 1895. He was the son of Walter Jackson Freeman, a physician, and Corinne Keen, one of the daughters of W.W. Keen. Freeman married Marjorie Lorne Franklin (d.1970) in 1924. They had six children: Marjorie Lorne Canter, Walter Jackson, Franklin, Paul, William Williams Keen (d.1946), and Robert Fitz Randolph (d.1969). Freeman died on May 31, 1972.

Freeman received an A.B. from Yale University in 1916, an M.D. for the University of Pennsylvania in 1920, and an M.S. in 1929 and Ph.D in 1931 from Georgetown University. He served as a pathology intern at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from 1921 to 1923, then pursued graduate study in neurology in Paris and Rome (1923-1924.)

In 1926, Freeman began his medical practice as a neurologist in Washington, D.C. He was the Director of Laboratories at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington from 1924 to 1933 and Professor of Neurology at George Washington University (1927-1954). He also served as a Consulting Neurologist to Walter Reed Army Hospital from 1944 to 1954. In 1954, Freeman moved his practice to California. He retired in 1968.

Freeman was the author of several books including Neuropathology (1933), Psychosurgery with J.W. Watts (1942), Psychosurgery and the self with M.F. Robinson (1954) and The psychologist (1967).

Freeman was also active in many professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Neurological Association, the American Association of Neuropathologists (President, 1944-1945), the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (President, 1946-1947), the American Psychiatric Association, and the Philadelphia Neurological Society (President, 1945). Although he was elected to fellowship in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1956, Freeman rejected his election.

Sadao Hirose was born on March 1, 1918. He received his M.D. from the University of Tokyo in 1941 and was associated with the Department of Neuropsychiatry at the University of Tokyo from 1941 to 1946. Hirose specialized in affective and schizophrenic disorders and forensic psychiatry. From 1946 to 1954, Hirose served as the Medical Official at the Matsuzawa Mental Hospital in Tokyo. He was appointed Chief Psychiatrist at the hospital in 1954. In 1960, he became a professor and the Director of the Department of Neuropsychiatry at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo. He still held this position in 1983.

In 1948, Mizuho Nakata was the Director of the Surgical Division of the Niigata Medical College Hospital. According to information received from Sadao Hirose, Nakata was the first surgeon to introduce psychosurgery into Japan.


1 folder (62 items)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The collection was donated to the Historical Collections of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Walter Freeman's son, Franklin Freeman, in 1989. The location of the original material is uncertain, but it is probably in the possession of Franklin Freeman.

The Freeman correspondence was processed in 1989.
Walter Freeman correspondence
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States