Howard Dully was born in Oakland, California, the eldest son of Rodney and June Louise Pierce Dully. Neurologist Walter Freeman had diagnosed Dully as suffering from childhood schizophrenia since age 4, although numerous other medical and psychiatric professionals who had seen Dully did not detect a psychiatric disorder. In 1960, at 12 years of age, Dully was submitted by his father and stepmother for a trans-orbital lobotomy, performed by Freeman. During the procedure, a long, sharp instrument called a leucotome was inserted through each of Dully’s eye sockets 7 cm (2.75 inches) into his brain.
Dully took decades to recover from the surgery to the point where he could function in society; he was institutionalized for years as a juvenile (in Agnews State Hospital as a minor), transferred to Rancho Linda School in San Jose, CA (a school for children with behavior problems), incarcerated, and was eventually homeless and an alcoholic. After sobering up and getting a college degree in computer information systems, he became a California state certified behind-the-wheel instructor for a school bus company in San Jose, California.
In 2007, Dully published My Lobotomy, a memoir co-authored by Charles Fleming. The memoir relates Dully’s experiences as a child, the impact of the procedure on his life, his efforts as an adult to discover why the medically-unnecessary procedure was performed on him and the effect on his life.