Yes, one hundred and sixteen years ago today the eldest daughter of famous doctor William Williams Keen gave birth to her first child and named him Walter Jackson Freeman, after his father. Having been born in Philadelphia, the birthplace also of American neuroscience, little Walter grew up to be a neuroscientist with a distinctive accent. I have heard recordings of his voice and it sounds a bit as if he's holding his nose as he talks. I don't know if he said wooter for water, as I am told Philadelphians do.
Corinne Keen Freeman, according to Valenstein, inherited, as her eldest son did, her father's monstrous energy and drive, which she directed toward running her seven children's lives. This, unsurprisingly, got on Walter's nerves, and he never liked her, though his polite Edwardian upbringing was such that he was at least dutiful. She, not being a stupid woman, recognized that he didn't like her or feel even an automatic filial affection for her, and it was she who first called him "The Cat That Walks by Himself," a phrase his biographers like because it is so fitting -- and because it's Kipling, for whom Walter himself had a weakness that led to highly regrettable imitation. In his biography he describes watching her die with unapologetic coldness. "I never loved her." Of course it's not at all clear that he ever loved anyone but himself, but his mother was unlike most people in that she insisted that he pretend.
I had known already that Walter sometimes affected a top hat, but it is from Valenstein that I learned just recently that the first time James Watts saw him he was wearing a sombrero. I have a pretty good imagination but I'm having a hard time picturing Walter in a sombrero. It makes me wonder what other hats he might have owned. A kalpak, maybe.
I wonder also if the other lobotomy historians like El-Hai and Pressman and Shutts and Shorter took note of Walter's birthday while they were writing their books. On the one hand biography makes one obsessive, but on the other hand those guys are all so serious. Lobotomy is a very serious subject, you know.