West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History

Archives and History Library to Present “The West Virginia Lobotomy Project” Lecture on March 19


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Dr. James L. Spencer will present “The West Virginia Lobotomy Project” on Thursday, March 19, in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The program will begin at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Spencer will discuss the West Virginia Lobotomy Project (WVLP), which was authorized by the State Board of Control primarily as a means of reducing overcrowding at state mental health facilities while saving the state much needed money during difficult times. It is estimated that 900 West Virginians received transorbital lobotomies between 1948 and 1955.

The procedures were conducted at Lakin, Weston, Spencer and Huntington state hospitals, and most were performed by Walter Freeman, the American neurologist who pioneered the original procedure in the United States in the mid-1930s. Spencer will delve into the human consequences to the individuals who underwent the operation.

A native of western New York, Spencer has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., and master’s and doctorate degrees in comparative psychology from The Ohio State University. He taught at West Virginia State University from 1983 until his retirement in 2013, serving as chair of the psychology department from 1993 to 2002.

Spencer twice won the southeastern region’s Advisor of the Year award and is the author of Recollections and Reflections: A History of the West Virginia State College Psychology Department, 1892-1992, in 1994. This spring, he will make a presentation on Herman Canady, chair of the department from 1928 to 1969 at the Second Annual Conference on International Human Rights.

For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.



Exit mobile version