Medicine: A Weight Is Lifted

A hole in the head is one of the oldest operations in medical history. Some half a million years ago, Stone Age medicine men were treating their patients by trephining (cutting out a circular piece of the skull). Evidence of their flint-knife gouging can still be seen in prehistoric skulls. Witch doctors in Melanesia and northern Africa still perform similar operations to cure insanity (a hole in the head is a handy exit for demons).

Sixty-five years ago the superintendent of a Swiss insane asylum, Gottlieb Burckhardt, cured a patient of auditory hallucinations...

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