If today scientific knowledge and very advanced technologies ndon’t prevent some scientists from carrying out crazy experiments, imagine those carried out by the scientists of the past. Five of them can also apply for the title of the one who best embodies the term « mad scientist ». Here they are.
Luigi Galvani was an Italian physician who, in 1780, discovered that by electrocuting a dead frog, its limbs moved. So his nephew, Giovanni Aldini, wanted to go further by trying to « revive » human corpses, a practice which Giovanni Aldini made a kind of show that he presented throughout Europe, notably in London, in 1803, where he gave his most famous demonstration in front of members of the Royal College of Surgery.
That day, he performed his « science show » on the body of Georges Forster, a 26-year-old man executed for killing his wife and child. The assembly was completely paralyzed when, once the current passed through the face of the deceased man, his eyes and mouth opened in a macabre grin. But that was not all. The doctor then plugged a cable into the corpse’s ear, and another into the rectum. The body of this one then launched into an unbearable jig, distributing punches and disarticulated kicks, leaving many people present in the assembly to think that the man had really returned to life.
This is Russia in the late 1920s, and Dr. Sergei Bryukhonenko was one of the directors of the Experimental Surgical Research Institute. Thanks to anticoagulants and an extra-corporeal circulation system that he himself had developed, the doctor managed to keep dog heads alive, without a body, for more than three hours.
During the 3rd Congress of Physiology of the Soviet Union, in 1928 and in front of an assembly of international scientists, he demonstrated this « prowess », during which the severed head responded to numerous stimuli. Pupils constricted in the light, lips licking, and even the swallowing of a piece of cheese, which emerged intact from the other side of the esophagus, were part of the spectacle.
This young American scientist obtained a post at the Institute of Experimental Biology of the University of California at the age of only 22 years. But it was at the age of 27 that the scientist went “crazy” when he set out to raise the dead using… a rocking board. The man was convinced that by tying down the body of a dead man whose vital organs did not suffer major damage, it was possible to bring him back to life by rocking the board continuously, to circulate the blood artificially.
A method that he then wanted to perfect on animals and, in 1934, he embarked on a series of canine resurrection experiments in public. Four fox terriers were used in the public experiment, four dogs that he had asphyxiated before trying to revive them using adrenaline injections, mouth-to-truffles, and sessions of « rocking ». The craziest thing is that two of the dogs came back to life and lived for several months, albeit with severe brain damage. Strangely enough, during their « second life », these dogs scared away their fellow dogs.
Vladimir Demikhov and Robert J. White, a Cold War story
During the Cold War, it was out of the question for the Soviet Union or the United States to let its enemy take a technological or scientific lead. We then witnessed a kind of match of mad scientists between Vladimir Demikhov, the Soviet and Robert J. White, the American.
It was the Soviet who struck first and at the same time shocked the whole world when in 1954 he “created” a two-headed dog. A great Soviet surgeon, Vladimir Demikhov had been sent to perform his experiments in a secret research center, where he had grafted the head and front legs of a puppy on the neck of a German shepherd. Aline Mosby, a United Press journalist who came to see one of the hybrids, reported that despite their common circulatory system, the two heads lived separately, sleeping and waking at different times in particular.
It took a few years, in 1961, for an American counterpart to respond to Demikhov. This is Robert J. White, then 34 years old who, with the help of the government, established a brain research center in Cleveland, Ohio. This government of course asked him to do whatever it took to « beat » Demikhov, and keep face in front of the world.
For this surgeon, the prowess of the Soviet was impressive, but it was not a real head transplant. It is therefore in this direction that he is committed. Several years of experimentation were necessary for him before on March 14, 1970, he succeeded in grafting the head of a monkey on the body of another. The monkey woke up but, while its mouth and eyes were working just fine, the spinal cord had been severed, rendering the creature paralyzed. She only survived a day.
This war of “scientific prowess” did not make the public enthusiastic, quite the contrary, the American people having been afflicted by the horrors that this man had committed on the animal in the name of research.