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Edward de Bono: physician, psychologist, and inventor who coined the term “lateral thinking”

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 20 July 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n1831
  1. Rebecca Wallersteiner
  1. London, UK
Credit: Roy Zhao

One of five children, Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono was born in Malta, to Joseph de Bono, a seventh generation Maltese physician, and Josephine (née O’Byrne), an Anglo-Irish journalist, who campaigned for women’s rights. From the age of 7, de Bono attended St Edward’s College, a Maltese boarding school run along English lines. Inventive from an early age, he ingeniously figured out a way to escape from the school and the citadel of Mdina through an underground network of tunnels. When older boys wanted to sneak out for a beer, they had to come to him for the map. During de Bono’s childhood, Malta was severely bombed by Germany and Italy on account of its strategic importance. He spent many nights sleeping in an air raid shelter in the garden of his family home, as bombs flattened many of the houses in the square.

Medical career

At the age of 15 he entered the Royal University of Malta to read medicine. In 1955 he went to Christ Church, Oxford, on a Rhodes scholarship and read psychology and physiology. He stayed on to do a doctorate in medicine, which he completed in 1961. A talented athlete, at Oxford he played polo and canoed Canadian style from Oxford to London. After graduating he taught at the University of London and lectured in medicine at Cambridge (1976-83), where he did another doctorate and was assistant director …

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