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Sept. 18, 1920: A cranial cure for ‘criminal tendencies’

  • Blog Post by: Ben Welter
  • September 19, 2012 - 5:31 PM
 
A link between brain damage and anti-social behavior has been well-documented. It’s unclear how well-documented the link was in 1920, when a court sent a robbery suspect to a St. Paul hospital for a bit of cranial surgery to cure his “criminal tendencies.” Did it work? That's also unclear. There’s no mention of the scofflaw in subsequent issues of the Minneapolis Tribune, and no record of a Nobel prize for the surgeon.

Veteran of World War,
Bent on Crime, May Be
Cured by Operation

 
Francis J. Poole, 19 years old, veteran of the World war, underwent an operation at St. Joseph’s hospital in St. Paul yesterday for removal of pressure of the skull on the brain, which physicians believe has led the young man into criminal ways.  Poole was taken from the Ramsey county jail and given under custody of Dr. A.E. Comstock by order of the court. He is held on a charge of attempted highway robbery.
 
The young soldier was shot in the head while in the state militia in 1917, accidentally, and the skull on the top of his head was badly broken and splintered. An operation at that time was difficult because of the serious damage to the skull but surgeons hoped it would properly heal. It apparently did for young Poole went to France and served in the World war, where he was gassed.

On his return home no indications of the pressure on the brain was evidenced until a month ago when he assaulted and attempted to rob Thomas J. Brickley, a taxicab driver, at Sauers Park on a trip to Gladstone. Poole was overpowered and locked up.
 
Dr. Comstock and other physicians made an examination of the wound and declared that pressure of the tissue on the brain caused the criminal tendencies. Young Poole stood the operation well and is expected to recover shortly.
 
St. Joseph's Hospital, Ninth and Exchange, St. Paul, in 1912. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)

 

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