Here is an on-going collection of photos and pictures related to each of the bizarre experiments featured in my book, ‘The Museum of Bizarre and Extreme Science‘. I hope they will add further context and curiosity to each chapter! I will update this post as new images surface.
A portrait of Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard (1817-1894). A Mauritian-born physiologist and neurologist. In the late 19th century, Brown-Séquard harvested the testicles of dogs and guinea-pigs and mashed them up into a concoction that he injected into his arms and legs. After documenting the mental and physical benefits he experienced, his practice spread rapidly among physicians.
A satirical cartoon from 1896 that was published in the weekly magazine Judge. Brown-Séquard is sat with his hypodermic needle and flasks full of his testicle juice.
Dr Duncan MacDougall (1866-1920), pictured in 1911, was a physician from Massachusetts, USA. Over 110 years ago, he set out to determine whether the human soul leaves the body after death. After detecting a pre-to post-death weight loss in the bodies of terminally ill patients, MacDougall was able to conclude that the soul was indeed vacating the body.
Scales similar to those used by MacDougall to weigh his terminally ill patients whilst they lay in their hospital beds.
The New York Times broke the story in March 1907, just before MacDougall was able to publish his findings two months later in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.
‘The look on their faces’
In 1924, Carney Landis (1897-1962) took photographs of his participants’ faces during a variety of emotionally charged situations. These situations began with music and pornography, and progressed to fire crackers, electric shocks and decapitating live rats. His intention was simply to investigate whether or not humans show similar facial expressions when presented with different stimuli. His participants were gradually worn down and reduced to quivering wrecks.
Scottish Philosopher and Physicist Robert Symmer (aka the ‘barefoot’ philosopher) (1707-1763) grew curious over the static electricity he noticed when removing his socks. He felt compelled to subject this mystery to a thorough investigation. Armed with his finely tuned scientific apparatus (his socks) and a tightly controlled experimental protocol (taking his socks on and off), Symmer conducted no fewer than four separate experiments over the course of many months.
A portrait of Major Walter Reed (1851 to 1902), a renowned bacteriologist and army doctor. He famously led a medical team on a mission to further understand the spread of yellow fever. His experiments involved deliberately infecting human subjects and locking participants in a contaminated wooden cabin.
One of the wooden cabins used in Reed’s yellow fever experiments. Several participants were locked in the cabin for 21-nights and forced to sleep in bed linen soaked in the excrement, blood and vomit taken from yellow fever sufferers. Reed went on to prove that yellow fever was spread by infected mosquitos rather than through poor sanitation and human-to-human contact.
Wendell Johnson (1906-1965), pictured above in a 1978 painting by Cloy Ken, was a highly regarded American psychologist who, as a stutterer himself, devoted most of his career studying the causes and treatments for stuttering. In a notorious experiment nicknamed the ‘monster study’, Johnson and his graduate student, Mary Tudor, convinced orphaned children that they had a stutter. Many of these children became withdrawn, reluctant to speak and developed lasting speech problems, even though several of them did not have a stutter in the first place.
Englishman Stephen Grey (1666 – 1736) is depicted above in an illustration by Christian Hausen in 1743, during his discovery of electrical induction. In this experiment, Grey hung a young servant (aka a ‘footboy’, in those days) from his ceiling so that he was not in contact with any other object, and demonstrated how he could pass an electric charge into the boy by moving his static electric generator close to his feet. To amazed onlookers, Grey exhibited how the boy’s body would attract objects around them and give off a sharp shock when touched.
In 1889, an American Electrical Engineer, Harold Pitney Brown (1857 – 1944) and colleagues, experimented with the effects of electrical execution on animals. Their apparatus pictured above was published in the Medico-Legal Journal and shows how they electrocuted a 145 pound calf with a 750 volt shock.
Harold Brown pictured again, this time attempting to electrocute a horse at the Thomas Edison’s West Orange laboratory.
‘A classical lab rat’
A portrait of John B. Watson (1878-1958), an eminent psychologist who is considered the founder of behaviourism. Watson is famous for his experiment on ‘Little Albert’, a 9-month old baby whom he conditioned to fear a white rat by banging a steel bar each time the rat was presented. Watson is also known for dabbling in secret sex experiments and was once banned by his university from experimenting with alcohol after he ordered 34 gallons of whiskey.
‘A classical lab rat’
Little Albert being presented with a white rat. Taken from footage recorded during the 1920 experiment.
A portrait of Chicago-based surgeon, George Frank Lydston (1858-1923). Lydston reasoned that if there truly are rejuvenating powers bestowed within Brown-Séquard’s aforementioned minced testicles, perhaps we can harness even greater benefits from an entire testicle transplantation. In later life, Lydston volunteered himself as the first to be furnished with a new set of balls harvested from a young donor who died suddenly from a tragic accident. After experiencing various health improvements, Lydston went on to transplant numerous testicles into recipients who had suffered some form of genital impairment.
A news headline published in the New York Times on the 15thAugust 1920.
Photographed with one of his patients, Dr Leo Stanley (1886-1976) was chief surgeon at San Quentin State Prison between 1913 and 1951. Inspired by Brown-Séquard and Lydston, he collected the testicles from inmates following their execution and transplanted them into other inmates who were suffering ill health. According to Stanley’s notes, a successful experiment was based almost entirely on whether the patient enjoyed a post-operative erection. Shocking, when Stanley became in short supply of human testicles, he began implanting those taken from goats.
‘Man vs. Dog’
Dr Marie de Manacéïne (1841 to 1903), pictured above in 1860, was a specialist in sleep and fatigue. In one of her more notorious experiments, Manacéïne managed to keep a number of young dogs awake for several days. After 90 hours had passed the dogs began to die, with autopsies revealing severe and irreversible brain damage as the cause of death.
‘Man vs. Dog’
A portrait of George Thomas White Patrick (1857–1949) from the University of Iowa archives. Patrick and Gilbert (below), were some of the first formally trained psychologists in history. In their most famous experiment, conducted in 1895, Patrick and Gilbert kept three participants awake for 90 hours to see if they would meet the same fate as Manacéïne’s dogs.
‘Man vs. Dog’
A portrait of J. Allen Gilbert (1867–1948) from the University of Iowa archives, who worked with Patrick (above) on their famous sleep study.
Pictured in 1890, the first electric chair invented in 1881 in Buffalo, New York, by a dentist called Alfred Southwick. The first inmates to be electrocuted became participants in what was to be the darkest and most harrowing of scientific experiments.
An illustration by Le Petit Parisien, 1890, of William Kemmler’s electrocution being observed by a team of scientists. Kemmler was the first in-line for what ended up being a botched electrocution, causing uproar across America.
Dr. George Fordyce (1736-1802) in an image published by T. Phillips in 1795. Fordyce and Blagden (pictured below), were interested in how high a temperature the human body could endure. After creating the world’s first ‘experimental sauna’, the researchers spent many months experimenting in the sauna with clothes on and off, both in a group and whilst observing each other on their own. They went on to crank up the temperature, add a dog to their party, and sat in the sauna with steaks and eggs and watched on as they cooked.
Sir Charles Blagden (1748-1820) pictured by Mary Turner (published in the Annals of the Royal Society Club, 1917). Blagden worked alongside Fordyce (above) in their heated room experiments that were later published in Philosophical transactions (1775).
If you would like to read more about these bizarre experiments, including the original journal article publications, ‘The Museum of Bizarre and Extreme Science’ is available in paperback and e-book formats.