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António Egas Moniz

Born António Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz
29 November 1874(1874-11-29)
Avanca, Estarreja, Portugal
Died 13 December 1955 (aged 81)
Nationality Portugal
Fields Neurologist
Institutions University of Coimbra (1902); University of Lisbon (1921-1944)
Alma mater University of Coimbra
Known for Prefrontal leucotomy; Cerebral angiography
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1949)

António Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz (November 29, 1874 – December 13, 1955), known as Egas Moniz (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈɛɡɐʃ muˈniʃ]), was a Portuguese neurologist and the developer of cerebral angiography, best known for introducing the controversial psychosurgical procedure leucotomy (also known as lobotomy), for which be became the first Portuguese national to receive a Nobel Prize.[1]

He wrote broadly on topics within and outside medicine, and also held several legislative and diplomatic posts in the Portuguese government.


Education and career

Moniz was born in Avanca, Estarreja, Portugal as António Caetano de Abreu Freire; later the name of a figure from Portuguese history — Egas Moniz — was added as well.

Moniz attended Escola do Padre José Ramos and Colégio de S. Fiel dos Jesuítas, studied medicine at the University of Coimbra, then trained in neurology in Bordeaux and Paris. In 1902 he returned to Coimbra as chairman of the Department of Neurology, but soon left that post on entering politics.

He established the Partido Republicano Centrista and represented it in the Portuguese parliament from 1903 to 1917. Later he was Portugals's ambassador to Madrid (1917) and minister of foreign affairs (1918). Meanwhile he continued to practice medicine and teach physiology and anatomy, and in 1911 he became a professor of neurology at the newly-established University of Lisbon. In 1920 he gave up politics and returned to medicine and writing full time.

In 1927 Moniz developed cerebral angiography, a technique allowing blood vessels in and around the brain to be visualized; in various forms it remains a fundamental tool both in diagnosis and in the planning of surgeries on the brain. (In conjunction with this, he also contributed to the development of Thorotrast.) In 1949 he received the Nobel Prize, "for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses." [2]

In 1939, Moniz was shot by a disaffected patient whose motives remain obscure. He continued in private practice until 1955, when he died in Lisbon of hematemesis.


Since falling almost completely from use in the 1950s and 1960s, leucotomy (also known as lobotomy) has been deplored by many as brutally arrogant (or worse) and collateral derision has been directed at Moniz as the operation's innovator. Others suggest judging the inventor separately from the invention, characterizing Moniz' work as a "great and desperate" attempt to find effective treatment for severe forms of mental illness for which there was previously no effective treatment at all. Some claim it was aggressive promotion of lobotomy by other doctors (such as Walter Freeman) which led to its being performed in large numbers of cases now considered inappropriate.[3] (See also Nobel Prize controversies.)

In 1957 Moniz's study centre (now known as the Egas Moniz Museum) was transferred to Santa Maria Hospital and integrated in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon, where there is also a statue of him. His art collection is on display at his country house in Avanca.

The anatomical feature Egas Moniz's Siphon — the passage of the internal carotid artery through the interior of the temporal bone — is named for him.


  1. ^ "Comments by Carl Skottsberg, President of the Royal Academy of Sciences (Sweden), Nobel Medicine Prize Banquet 1949". Retrieved 2009-12-2.  
  2. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1949". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2009-11-13.  
  3. ^ "Last-Ditch Medical Therapy — Revisiting Lobotomy", Dr. Barron H. Lerner, New England Journal of Medicine, July 14, 2005.

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