goatish gonads

One of our favourite characters here at the Gimcrack is Dr Serge Voronoff who has been mentioned in not one, not two, but three posts before. Serge was responsible for transplanting bits of monkey testes into aging men. John Brinkley went one step further – he became a millionaire during the twenties by transplanting goat glands instead.

Brinkley and wife found here

While working as house doctor at the Swift meatpacking company, he was dazzled by the vigorous mating activities of the goats destined for the slaughterhouse. Later, after Brinkley had gone into private practice, a farmer named Stittsworth came to see him. Stittsworth complained of a sagging libido. Recalling the goats’ frantic antics, the doctor semi-jokingly told his patient that what he needed was some goat glands. Stittsworth quickly responded, “So, Doc, put ’em in. Transplant ’em.”

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Most doctors would have ignored the bizarre request, but Brinkley was not like most doctors. In fact, he wasn’t a doctor at all. Although he had spent three years at Bennet Medical College in Chicago, he’d never graduated. He called himself a doctor on the basis of a $500 diploma he had purchased from the Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City.

“Eclectic” found here

Buying a degree from a diploma mill was not out of character for Brinkley. He had worked as a snake-oil salesman in a road show, and then, with fellow con man James Crawford, established Greenville Electro Medical Doctors. Under this name the pair injected people with colored distilled water for $25 a shot. Brinkley, therefore, had all he needed to capitalize on the farmer’s idea of goat-gland transplants: he was unethical, he had a wobbly knowledge of medicine, and he had witnessed the rambunctious behavior of goats.

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Brinkley went to work, implanting a small piece of goat gonad in Stittsworth’s testicle. Soon the farmer was thanking the doctor for giving him back his libido. And when his wife gave birth to a boy, whom they appropriately named Billy, Stittsworth spread the word further. Brinkley’s business was booming and even at $750 per transplant, he couldn’t keep up with demand. All men needed the Brinkley operation, he declared, but the procedure was most suited to the intelligent and least suited to the “stupid type.” This, of course, ensured that few of his patients would admit that they had not benefited from the operation.

Baby Billy Bob found here

Revenue from the surgeries made Brinkley an immensely wealthy man. For $5,000, he would even implant genuine human glands, which he obtained from prisoners on death row. He had mansions, a fleet of Cadillacs, airplanes, and yachts.There were occasional problems like when Brinkley decided to use angora goat testicles instead of those from the more common Toggenberg goat. Recipients of the angora testicles were unhappy—Brinkley himself noted that they reeked like a steamy barn in midsummer. 

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But ultimately Brinkley couldn’t cure himself. The Milford Messiah—as he was sometimes called—the man who had performed over 16,000 goat testicle transplants, the man who appropriately wore a goatee all his life, developed a blood clot, forcing doctors to amputate his leg. Till the very end, Brinkley’s scheming mind remained active. Confined to bed, he decided to study for the ministry and had visions of becoming a big-time preacher but he died before he could complete his degree.

the mesmerising dentist

Rachael Weaver uncovers an old Sydney murder case…..

News of the tragedy began with reports of an inquest into the violent death of Henry Kinder on 7 October 1865. Kinder was an official at the City Bank and lived with his young family in a comfortable home on Sydney’s north shore. Originally an Englishman, Kinder had arrived in the colonies from New Zealand with his wife, Maria, two years earlier.

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The evidence presented at the inquest was of a man who was restless and excitable, smoked heavily, was careless about his personal appearance and anxious about unpaid debts. Bertrand, a successful Sydney dentist who saw the Kinders socially every day, deposed that Kinder had been drinking freely, that he had challenged Bertrand to a duel, and that he was jealous of his wife with everyone.

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According to Bertrand and Maria Kinder they had been in the Kinders’ drawing room with Henry Kinder and Bertrand’s wife Jane on Monday evening when Kinder suddenly shot himself in the head. Dr Eichler described having been called in around five hours later to treat a large laceration, which had caused Kinder’s ear to hang away from its proper place. The wound had torn his face open from the jaw to the temple. Eichler described his treatments before offering his opinion that the deceased was an imbecile. Kinder was awake and remained conscious throughout the week, lingering until the Friday when he died.

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The inquest into the death of Henry Kinder caused ‘some sensation’ at the time. But this was nothing compared with the outpouring of public excitement two months later, when Henry Bertrand, his wife Jane Bertrand and Maria Kinder were charged with Kinder’s murder. The sensation surrounding the case arose from the idea of ‘profligacy, and something akin to madness, occurring in a respectable circle’.

the respectability question found here

Those involved were young, good-looking, affluent and fashionable. Their relationships were wildly unorthodox and everyone who had come within their orbit had strange tales to tell. Maria Kinder was invested with a seductive malice and Henry Bertrand with deep eccentricities and charisma. Bertrand’s distinctive traits and peculiar behaviour added greatly to the case’s sense of intrigue, but perhaps most fascinating of all was his professed ability to control others using hypnosis.

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If analysts of the case loved to dwell on Bertrand’s dangerous powers of hypnosis, they were perhaps even more seduced by the idea of Maria Kinder as a femme fatale, whose passions had driven the men around her to insanity and murder. Perceptions of her magnetic sexuality, infidelity, gold-digging and cunning criminality coalesced with stereotypes of the evil woman that were circulating in the sensational popular fiction of the time.

Femme Fatale by Patrick Demarchelier found here

Maria Kinder first met Henry Bertrand as a patient at his Wynyard Square practice, and their relationship quickly evolved into an illicit affair. They did little to conceal it from family and friends, who seem to have looked on with a peculiar level of acceptance. They used Bertrand’s young assistant, Alfred Burne, as messenger and he carried letters between them. 

Wynyard Square c 1938 found here

Shortly after the lovers met, Francis Jackson, another key figure in the case, arrived on the scene. He had been Maria Kinder’s lover in New Zealand and upon meeting again in Sydney, Jackson and Maria Kinder quickly rekindled their affair. During his testimony at the trial he described having orchestrated drinking sessions with Henry Kinder so that he could have his way with Maria when the banker fell unconscious. Meanwhile Bertrand sought to play his rivals, Jackson and Kinder, against each other. He tried to incite Kinder to violence and then threatened to implicate Jackson in Kinder’s death if he remained in Sydney. To get him out of the way, Bertrand offered to pay Jackson’s passage back to New Zealand and Jackson took the money and departed, but travelled only as far as Maitland in regional New South Wales.

Maitland floods 2007 found here

Meanwhile, Bertrand was also plotting against Kinder. He asked his assistant, Alfred Burne, if he knew where a pistol could be bought, and they arranged to purchase one from a city pawnshop. Bertrand turned up disguised as a woman.  The next morning Bertrand asked Alfred Burne to buy a sheep’s head from the butcher. Back at his Wynyard Square surgery he cast his own bullets before testing them out by firing at the sheep’s head.

sheep’s head found here

Just two weeks later Kinder was dead. According to Jane Bertrand’s testimony, she and Maria Kinder had been standing by the window arranging flowers when they heard a shot. They turned to see Kinder drooping in his seat by the piano, a pistol falling from his hand, Bertrand standing over him. Dr Eichler was sent for and arrived a few hours later. Kinder was conscious but sank into a wordless stupor when the doctor told him to put his affairs in order.

flower arrangement found here

The next day, Eichler examined Kinder again and found him much improved. That evening at the dental surgery Bertrand showed to Alfred Burne a phial of white liquid, telling him it was the poison he would use to murder Kinder. On 6 October Kinder died. 

Following the coroner’s inquest into Henry Kinder’s death, Bertrand and Maria Kinder continued their affair. She came to live with Bertrand and his wife, who was sometimes forced to share a bed with the lovers—a salacious detail that generated nearly as much moral outrage as the murder itself. 

Meanwhile, Bertrand received a letter from Francis Jackson attempting to blackmail him by threatening to expose his relationship with Maria Kinder and his involvement in Henry Kinder’s death. Bertrand’s surgery was searched and his diary, a bottle marked poison, a pistol, gunpowder, caps and a tomahawk were seized. Bertrand was charged with murder.

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Despite testimony that she had mixed the poison that had killed Kinder, a charge of murder against Jane Bertrand was dropped. Maria Kinder, likewise, escaped further prosecution due to lack of evidence. Bertrand was tried alone. After deliberating for twenty hours without reaching agreement, the jury was dismissed. A second trial began and was concluded the following day. This time the jury returned a guilty verdict and Bertrand was sentenced to death.

The Kinder Tragedy was described as the greatest criminal case on record in the Australian colonies. Keeping interest in the case alive was the fact that Bertrand had evaded the death penalty. From time to time he was moved to a new prison, and a fresh spate of newspaper articles recalling the case would appear. New Zealand’s Wanganui Chronicle reported in September 1879 that he had been relocated to Darlinghurst, and was ‘considered a valuable acquisition to that institution’. Maria Kinder made the news just once after the trial had ended, in July 1867, when she announced her marriage to a Mr Stanley Williams of Greymouth, New Zealand.

Darlinghurst jail, now the National Art School

By far the greatest rekindling of interest in the case, however, came in 1894 with Bertrand’s release after twenty-eight years in prison. Maria Kinder was dead by then. After a night or two spent at the Hotel Metropole in Sydney, Bertrand left Australia for good. It is believed he went to live under an assumed name in Paris.

Chinese George

George Ernest Morrison (1862 – 1920), also known as Chinese Morrison, was an Australian adventurer and The Times Peking correspondent.

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He was born in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. During a vacation before his tertiary education, he walked from Geelong to Adelaide, a distance of about 600 miles (960 km). Landing at Normanton, Queensland at the end of 1882 Morrison decided to walk to Melbourne. He was not quite 21, he had no horses or camels and was unarmed, but carrying his swag and swimming or wading the rivers in his path, he walked the 2043 miles in 123 days.

image of Geelong found here

Financed by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, Morrison was sent on an exploration journey to New Guinea. The men Morrison chose to accompany him were a mixed and mostly comical lot. They included Ned Snow “remarkably short and of such eccentric configuration that, whereas his body seemed longer than his legs, his head appeared more lengthy than either’. There was a Malay named Cheerful (possibly because he was an opium smoker) and another, Lively, who was “curious”.

Mud Men from New Guinea found here

High mountain country barred the way, and it took 38 days to cover 50 miles. The natives became hostile, and Morrison was struck by two spears, one, driven into his head near his right eye, the other deep in his stomach. Retracing their steps, with Morrison strapped to a horse, Port Moresby was reached after many days. On a ship taking him home he blew his nose and shot out a two centimetre splinter of wood. 

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In Melbourne, 169 agonising days after the ambush, a surgeon removed the spearhead that was wedged in the back of his throat. Without anaesthetic the surgeon took the tip of the spear (six centimetres long) through and up the throat and into then out of Morrison’s right nostril.

He sailed for London on 27 March 1884, where he had the second spearhead cut from his abdomen by surgeon Joseph Bell in front of no less than 16 other surgeons. Morrison graduated as a doctor from Edinburgh University two and a half years later. After graduation he travelled extensively in the United States, the West Indies, and Spain. He then proceeded to Morocco, became physician to the Shereef of Wazan, and studied in Paris under Dr Charcot. In Siam, where the British and French were vying for power, he worked as a British secret agent. 

George found here

In 1894 he journeyed from Shanghai to Rangoon. He went partly by boat up the Yangtze River then rode and walked the remainder of the 3000 miles. The journey was completed in 100 days at a total cost of £18. He was unarmed and at the time knew hardly more than a dozen words of Chinese. 

Yangtze found here

In 1899 he went to England, and early in 1900 paid a short visit to his relations in Australia before returning to Peking. The Boxer Uprising broke out soon after, and during a prolonged siege, Morrison showed great courage, always ready to volunteer for every service of danger. Superficially wounded in July, he was erroneously reported as killed. He was afterwards able to read his highly laudatory obituary notice, which occupied two columns of The Times.

Boxer uprising found here

Morrison was a handsome, heroic man of action, much admired by women. In Spain he was captivated by a young girl named Pepita. In Paris he spent all his savings on Noelle and in Rangoon he had an idyllic affair with a Eurasian named Mary. In London, aged 43, he fell heavily for Toni, a 22 year old Hungarian. In Peking, he lusted briefly for Bessie and while visiting Sydney, spent time with a German actress. May, an insatiable American heiress, had him in the shadow of the Great Wall. He was spellbound by her sexuality and described her as the most thoroughly immoral woman. His diary contained an account of her industrious love life:

shadowy Great Wall found here

“May played with herself every morning even after passing the night in bed with a man. Seduced by a doctor, she went to Washington, slept constantly with Congressman Gaines, had four miscarriages, kissed all the way over Siberia by Captain Tremain Smith. Had for days in succession by Martin Egan. Her desire now is to get a Japanese maid to accompany her back to America and to kiss her every morning. In Tientson she had the Dutch consul and Mr Holcombe had her four times in two hours….”

Japanese maids found here

Morrison was dejected when May dumped him but at the age of 53, he married his thirty years younger assistant, Jennie. They had seven happy years together before he died of pancreatitis in May 1920.  

a darker shade of bad hat

‘Bad hats’ was a term employed in China during the 20th century to describe undesirable or simply ‘bad’ characters that landed in their treaty port concessions.

“In the 1930s a new breed of ‘bad hat’ began to emerge, often well-financed and politically affiliated with intelligence contacts in their own countries.The term began to take on a much darker shade in the press. One of the most notorious was a Viennese Doctor by the name of Hermann Erben.

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In 1924 he won a fellowship for study at the Psychiatric Institute for Medical Research in New Jersey. He moved to the USA and acquired citizenship. In 1926 he began a wandering life and ended up a ship’s doctor on the American Dollar and President lines. In 1934 he visited Papua New Guinea and struck up an aquaintance with the film star Errol Flynn.The two of them ended up bumming around together travelling to India, Abyssina and then Vienna. In 1935 the New York Herald Tribune reported his arrival abroad the freighter ‘City of Rayville” in the company of 1,100 monkeys that he was importing from Calcutta. Upon disembarkation in New York he encountered difficulties with the customs authorities. Eventually he secured admission with his simian charges and took lodging with them at the YMCA but left soon afterwards, following a difference of opinion over the bill.

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In 1937 he was reported to have been engaged in inciting a mutiny abroad an American cruise liner on which he was working. FBI inquiries revealed a pattern of challenging behaviour aboard the ship; he allegedly “wiped his hands on the American flag after taking food from the icebox”, had given the Nazi salute to a passing German ship and had threatened anyone criticizing Adolf Hitler that he would “sink his teeth into their throat”. His on board stage act was an uncanny impersonation of Adolf Hitler for anyone interested.

Baby Hitler found here

In 1941 Erben arrived back in China. He went directly from the docks to the German consulate, where he was interviewed by local Gestapo and bureau chiefs. Shanghai at this time, due to its non-defined territorial international settlement’s status, had become a hotbed of espionage activities,  its big hotels were famous for eavesdroppers and electronic bugs which had led to such wartime incongruities as a Nazi-controlled German embassy being housed in a British owned building on the Bund.

Shanghai in the 1940s found here

Erben, as a ship’s physician, was assigned to treat American sailors. He also received an order to contact the U.S embassy in his capacity as a U.S citizen with a view to learning about their security. Meanwhile he practiced medicine as a venereal disease specialist and abortionist for rich Chinese and foreign families. Extortion by sexual blackmail became something of hobby for him too, a well-known practice amongst corrupt doctors in the city. He also entered the opium smuggling business which proved more lucrative than espionage for the Nazis. Slowly the lure of easy money drew Erben away from his Nazi beliefs and he began selling ‘intelligence’ reports to Allies and Axis powers alike, often being creative in his write-ups. 

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The German intelligence establishment in Shanghai came to consider Erben an extremely questionable person and made inquiries about his background. In 1943 a message came from Berlin that Erben was an ‘imposter, narcotics dealer and American propagandist’. The Nazis in Shanghai decided to play one of their (few and far between) humourous jokes on him. His controller, a Gestapo officer called Habenicht, asked him to go undercover in an internment camp in order to gather intelligence; from there he could effect an escape with an American prisoner and flee to Chungking to work as a German agent. He was handed over to Japanese guards but Erben quickly became a pariah, due to the other inmates’ well founded suspicions. He spent two and a half years in the camp as a ‘volunteer’ with no word from his controller. It appears to have been a joke assignment from his Gestapo superiors.

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After the war he returned to Vienna and took up medicine again (where no one discovered another of his secrets -he never actually got his medical degree), dying at the age of 88 in an tiny unheated apartment in 1985. 

Published in: on April 22, 2012 at 12:33 am  Comments (49)  
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conduct unbecoming

James Barry (c. 1789 –  1865), was a military surgeon in the British Army.

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“Among his accomplishments was the first caesarean section in Africa by a British surgeon in which both the mother and child survived the operation. Although Barry lived his adult life as a man, it is widely believed that he was born a female named Margaret Ann Bulkley and that he chose to live as a man so that he might be accepted as a university student and be able to pursue his chosen career as a surgeon.

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Margaret was born in Ireland in 1789, the second child of Jeremiah and Mary-Ann Bulkley. The child’s mother was the sister of James Barry, a celebrated Irish artist and professor of painting at London’s Royal Academy. However, a family crisis left Mary-Ann and Margaret without the support of Jeremiah Bulkley. Letters during this time of financial hardship refer to a conspiracy between Mary-Ann and some of her brother’s influential, liberal-minded friends to get the teenager – then still known as Margaret – into medical school.

self portrait by James Barry found here

A letter to the family solicitor shows that Mary-Ann and Margaret travelled to Edinburgh by sea in November 1809.  The letter also indicated that the younger traveller had assumed a male identity upon embarking on the voyage. Following his arrival in Edinburgh, Barry began studies as a ‘literary and medical student’. He qualified with a Medical Doctorate in 1812, then moved back to London.

Edinburgh found here

Barry was commissioned as a Hospital Assistant with the British Army, taking up a post in the Royal Military Hospital in Plymouth, where he was promoted to Assistant Staff Surgeon. After that he served in India and South Africa. Barry’s next postings included Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, and the island of Saint Helena. In Saint Helena he got into trouble for leaving for England unannounced. Later he served in Malta, the Crimea, Jamaica, and Canada.

St Helena found here

He was a misfit from the start: less than 5ft tall, he wore stacked heels and had to have 3in soles fastened to his boots to give him elevation. But the flamboyant styles of the day – men dressed effeminately as a fashion, not a sexual statement – worked in his favour. 

elephant dung stacked heels found here

He rapidly became known for his foibles, which included sleeping every night with a black poodle called Psyche, riding about in dress uniform wearing a cavalry sword and taking a goat everywhere so he could drink its milk. Despite “a most peculiar squeaky voice and mincing manner”, as one ambassador’s daughter noted, Dr Barry’s fierce temper ensured he was a force to be reckoned with.

goat found here

Barry was not always a pleasant fellow to be around. He could be tactless, impatient, argumentative and opinionated. He reputedly fought a couple of duels when someone commented on his voice and feminine features, though he appears to have had a good bedside manner and professional skill. He was a vegetarian and teetotaler and reputedly recommended wine baths for some (lucky) patients.

Wine Bath image found here

James Barry retired in 1864 — reputedly against his wishes — and returned to England. He died from dysentery a year later. Sophia Bishop, the charwoman who took care of the body, discovered his female anatomy and revealed this information after the funeral. Many people then claimed to have “known it all along”.

charging of the sexes

In “The Philosophy of IntercourseDr Edward Bliss Foote explains that, thanks to animal magnetism, the opposite sexes quite literally keep each other charged up. Intercourse was a spinning dynamo generating frictional energy between men and women. *

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He was the author and publisher of his medical theories, the doctor who prescribed his own remedies, and the manufacturer and distributor of those very same medicines. 

The New York Times carried Foote ads trumpeting OLD EYES MADE NEW WITHOUT SPECTACLES and COMFORT FOR THE RUPTURED, and the enticing CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION FOR THE MARRIED. Foote patent medicines like his Magnetic Ointment and Magnetic Anti-Bilious Pills were hawked for impotency and—for your inevitable return visit after that first cure—for syphilitic and gonorrheal sores.

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Foote was also associated with the latest in toilets. In one of those happily juvenile accidents of history, the greatest seller of water closets in Britain was Thomas Crapper. In New York, Foote’s friend Asa Butts was the most successful supplier of the Wakefield Earth Closet. 

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The burnished mahogany Wakefields were handsome and refined. It made the act of toileting rather like relieving oneself on a really nice piano. It featured an array of levers and spring loaded slats to automatically cover everything up for you. In Britain, the Lancaster  Grammar School found them splendid for schoolboys, as their old water closets had kept getting clogged up “by reason of marbles, Latin grammar covers and other properties being thrown down them.”

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Earth closets had healthful advantages too. Any number of Victorian neuroses become understandable when you learn that one previous mass produced water commode was named The Clencher. 

“The Clencher” found here

*The information above was found in Paul Collins’ fascinating book “The Trouble with Tom – The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine”. He had quite a lot to say about Dr E. B Foote. You can read an earlier post about Foote’s amazing little book “Sammy Tubbs, Boy Doctor, and Sponsie, His Troublesome Monkey” here.

poor man’s viagra?

We’ve all used a packet of frozen peas when there’s no ice pack in the house haven’t we? Hemorrhoid ointment for eye wrinkles? A dab of toothpaste to dry out a pimple? More old fashioned remedies found here

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“People reach for what they have on hand, which might account for why common household products show up so frequently in strange home remedies. Who knew you could use Phillip’s Milk of Magnesia as an underarm deodorant instead of a laxative?

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Perhaps the most versatile of all is Vicks VapoRub. A foot care nurse told us that some of her colleagues were using Vicks on patients’ fungus-infected toenails. Then we heard from another nurse that smearing Vicks on the soles of the feet could help a child with a cough sleep through the night.

tattooed sole found here

It wasn’t long before the floodgates opened and we began to hear about using Vicks on paper cuts, mosquito bites and seborrheic dermatitis. Others find it useful for softening calluses on their feet or scaly skin on elbows. One woman insisted that Vicks can relieve the discomfort of hemorrhoids, but we generally advise against this application. A man who tried it reported that “the menthol, camphor and napalm instantly engulfed my hemorrhoidal locality in spontaneous combustion”

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There is another place one should probably not put Vicks. We recently received this message from a reader: “I was experimenting with Vicks VapoRub to see if it would help my jock itch. I inadvertently got some where I shouldn’t. I believe I have found a poor man’s Viagra.”

A drug that has also earned the name of “poor man’s Viagra” but for a totally different reason is Mectizan

“I’ve trained a lot of surgeons to do this operation,”  said Dr Laurissaint as he sliced open the engorged scrotum of 68-year-old Gesner Nicé, emptied more than a pint of clear liquid, then began trimming away with a cauterizing scalpel. Mr. Nicé, a woodcutter, has lymphatic filariasis, a disease in which clusters of four-inch worms as fine as blond hairs nest in the lymph nodes, the body’s drainage system, stretching them until lymph fluid can only drain downward.

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In cities like Léogâne, Haiti, more than a quarter of the men are tormented by the condition, their scrotum swelling to the size of a softball, or a basketball in severe cases. Treating symptoms can be costly. Hydrocele operations run from $30 to $120 in different countries. But eradication, which is complicated and costlier still, means treating millions of people with deworming drugs every year, drugs that do not cure the disease itself, but prevent its being passed on by killing the baby worms that mosquitoes transmit.

Several drugs — all first developed for cattle and pets — will kill the worms. An alluring aspect is that people like their side effects: they kill other worms too. Within days, mothers see their toddlers pass hookworms and adults see their lice and scabies fall off.

“People feel a lot better,” one doctor said. “Mectizan is sometimes called ‘the poor man’s Viagra.’ People stop itching, they feel great, and — voila! I’ve heard of babies named Mectizan.”

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fearlessness or folly?

John Hunter (February 1728 – October 1793) was a Scottish surgeon regarded as one of the most distinguished scientists and surgeons of his day. He was right about a good many things but sadly mistaken when it came to STDs

Hunterian Museum found here

He thought that gonorrhea and syphilis were caused by a single pathogen. Living in an age when physicians frequently experimented on themselves, he inoculated himself with gonorrhea into incisions he had made in his own penis, using a needle that was unknowingly contaminated with syphilis. When he contracted both syphilis and gonorrhea, he claimed it proved his erroneous theory that there was only one venereal disease. The characteristic nodule of the pox which appeared on his penis was later designated the “Hunterian chancre”.

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To cure his pox Hunter repeatedly swilled his mouth with corrosive sublimate and toxic mercury. These substances give mouth ulcers, loosen the teeth and produce pints of black saliva. Some hospitals had “salivating wards” where one could dribble in private

He included his findings in an illustrated Treatise on the Venereal Disease which was so graphic it even put James Boswell off sex for a week. Because of Hunter’s reputation, knowledge concerning the true nature of gonorrhea and syphilis was retarded, and it was not until 51 years later that his theory was proved to be wrong.

James Boswell found here

In 1791, when Joseph Haydn was visiting London for a series of concerts, Hunter offered to perform an operation for the removal of a large nasal polyp which was troubling the great Austrian composer. According to one account, “Haydn, on his visit to London in 1791, wrote folksong arrangements, including The Ash Grove, set to words by Mrs Hunter. Haydn had designs on Mrs Hunter. Her husband … had designs on Haydn’s famous nasal polyp. Both were refused.”

Haydn found here

a milkman, an artist and a winkle boiler

During the second world war, conscientious objectors  were allowed to choose non combative roles such as ambulance drivers and orderlies. Some also opted to be “human guinea pigs” in medical trials.

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“In early 1941, a dozen male volunteers arrived, suitcases in hand, at the Sorby Institute, a research facility in Sheffield, Yorkshire. They included a milkman, an artist, a maths teacher, a ladies’ hairdresser and a winkle boiler. They were destined to spend the war years allowing themselves to be infected with scabies, undergoing lengthy periods of vitamin deprivation, and taking part in potentially dangerous investigations into how long the body could cope without water.

milko found here

Scabies infestation, or ‘the itch’, then affected about two million Britons. At the time there was no effective cure. In a flash of inspiration, Major Kenneth Mellanby CBE, saw a well of available ‘volunteers’ on whom non-life-threatening experiments could be carried out, fitting in with their pacifism.

He shipped in army bedding previously used by those with scabies, and the volunteers slept naked between the sheets. Others were given unwashed underpants that they wore for a week at a time. Nothing happened.

At a lecture to military officers, Mellanby stated that scabies was contracted by picking up a young adult female which caused the audience to erupt with laughter. He meant a female mite, but the gaffe made him wonder if infected women could be hired to sleep with the volunteers. Would experimental adultery look good in the scientific report?

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Fortunately, before any women were enlisted two volunteers became infected; the combination of close contact and infected underwear had done the trick.

The volunteers had to remain infested for nine months, which must have been a relentless ordeal. Some wandered the corridors naked in the cold air to mollify the itch, probably wondering if life under fire in the Western Desert would not have been easier.

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Treatment started with scalding baths and vigorous scrubbing, followed by a coating of sulphur ointment. The most effective treatment proved to be painting the entire body, except the head, with benzyl benzoate. 

To keep up morale, pacifist meetings were held and allotments maintained. A mock coat of arms was devised depicting a sarcoptes mite atop the motto ‘Itch Dien’.

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Dietary experiments were also carried out, and the effects of vitamin A deprivation were logged. This task required participants to deliver every bowel movement to the lab. In 1943 one final, even more controversial, experiment was undertaken. Aimed at establishing the life expectancy of shipwrecked sailors, it required volunteers to go without water for up to five days. Only lifeboat rations, such as chocolate and dried meat, were allowed.

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The Sorby Institute closed its doors in 1946. Many of the recruits remained until the end, enjoying a kind of macabre bond. A jokey newsletter was produced to help people remain in contact and recount tales of the bizarre years they spent together. Some of the recruits also wrote this poem:

Recondite research on a mite

Has revealed that infections begin

On leave with your wife and your children

Or when you are living in sin.

Except in the case of the clergy,

Who accomplish remarkable feats,

And catch scabies and crabs

From door handles and cabs,

And from blankets and lavatory seats.

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August and everything after

August Karl Gustav Bier (November 1861 – March 1949) was a German surgeon who pioneered the “Bier Block”.

August Bier found here

In 1898 he invented spinal anaesthesia, which involved a small dose of cocaine being injected into the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the spinal cord. That was a great improvement on existing methods of general anaesthesia, but how effective was it?

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To find out, Bier decided to be anaesthetised himself. But things didn’t go as planned for Bier – or for his hapless assistant, Augustus Hildebrandt.

Hildebrandt was supposed to administer the cocaine but, thanks to a mix-up with the equipment, Bier was left with a hole in his neck from which cerebrospinal fluid began to flow.

Rather than abandon the effort, however, the two men switched places. Once Hildebrandt had been anaesthetized, Bier stabbed, hammered and burned his assistant, pulled out his pubic hairs and – presumably eager to leave no stone unturned in testing the new method’s efficiency – squashed his testicles.

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Once the cocaine had worn off, the pair went out for a boozy dinner, despite their injuries. Both suffered terribly in subsequent days but, while Bier took it easy as he recovered, Hildebrandt had to stand in for his boss at work.

Bier went down in medical history while Hildebrandt is mainly remembered as the man whose testicles he tugged.