James W. Watts

James W. Watts

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James W. Watts

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James Winston Watts (January 19, 1904 – November 15, 1994) was a neurosurgeon, born in Lynchburg, Virginia and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Watts is noteworthy for his professional partnership with the neurologist and psychiatrist Walter Freeman. The two became advocates and prolific practitioners of psychosurgery, specifically the lobotomy. Watts is known for carrying out the lobotomy of Rose Marie Kennedy under the supervision of Freeman.


After completing medical school in 1928, Watts worked as a research fellow at Yale before joining the faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery and Neurological Surgery at The George Washington University Hospital in 1935. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1969.

Watts was recruited into a medical partnership by his colleague Walter Freeman, who needed the collaboration of a trained surgeon in order to practice the leucotomy, a technique pioneered by the Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz. In the procedure developed by Moniz, the "white matter" in the frontal lobes was severed using a leucotome, an instrument Moniz designed specifically for the procedure. Freeman and Watts acquired several of the instruments and performed their first operation in 1936. They eventually modified the procedure to sever more of the white matter, and renamed it lobotomy in order to distinguish it from the earlier procedure developed by...
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