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The Fool on the Hill
  1. Robert W Tarr
  1. Correspondence to Robert W Tarr, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, 11100 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA; robert.tarr{at}

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Day after day,

Alone on a hill,

The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still

But nobody wants to know him,

They can see that he's just a fool,

And he never gives an answer,

But the fool on the hill,

Sees the sun going down,

And the eyes in his head,

See the world spinning 'round.

– The Beatles, Paul McCartney, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ – 1967

It is said about history that what is past is prologue. It is also said that history is a living body. My interpretation of these sentiments is that it is hard to know where you are going without knowing where you have been.

In a current television advertisement for Dos Equis beer, a character actor is referred to as ‘the most interesting person in the world’. The same might have been said of Egas Moniz in the early and mid-20th century. Although one major part of Moniz's life's work was the contribution of cerebral angiography, other facets included politician, composer, writer, nobel laureate and developing the field of psychosurgery.

Egas Moniz was born on 29 November 1874 at the family farm in Avancha, which is located in northern Portugal. His birth name was Antonio Caetano de Abreu Freire. While little is recorded about his childhood one can surmise he exhibited a sufficient amount of charisma in his youth as he was later given the name Egas Moniz by his godfather. The moniker was borrowed from that of Egas Moniz de Ribadauro (977–1022 ad), a Portuguese nobleman who was legendary for his courage during resistance fighting against the Moors in the 10th century.

At an early age Moniz showed promise as a student. He was initially home-schooled by an uncle before entering the University of Coimbra in 1891, where he excelled in …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.