Jonathan Mirsky

Invasive Procedures

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets

By Luke Dittrich

Chatto & Windus 440pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Horrifying. There is no other word for the madness and monstrous ambition of such surgeons as William Beecher Scoville, Luke Dittrich’s grandfather. For years during the mid-20th century they tampered with their patients’ brains – about which they knew next to nothing – to satisfy their curiosity. Scoville rarely understood what he was doing or what the effects would be on his patients as he scraped at and gouged into their brains. Unfortunately, he and his colleagues had plenty of subjects – the ‘guests’ in asylums.

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