Seven Scientists Who Have Suffered Their Experiments In Their Own
Research

Seven scientists who have suffered their experiments in their own flesh

Neurology, allergy or erectile dysfunction have benefited from researchers who were willing to do anything for science.

The reward for all the pain Justin Schmidt has suffered?  Collect a prize dressed as a bee.

Eager for answers and impatient at the slow pace of proceedings, there are cases of scientists who have become the subjects of their own studies. Nathaniel Kleitman, for example, spent 180 hours awake to research sleep deprivation, and Werner Forssmann inserted the first catheter into a human heart – his own. They were not exceptions, far from it: these researchers used themselves as guinea pigs.

A scientific castaway

In 1952, at the age of 27, the doctor Alain Bombard (1924-2005) carried out several risky survival experiments: he completed different routes mounted on a fragile boat and without food or water reserves. He first traveled from Monaco to the Balearic Islands, then from Casablanca to the Canary Islands, and finally from these islands to the Antilles on a transatlantic voyage.

The objective of these extreme tests was to understand the conditions that the castaways and being able to offer science-based advice to enable those lost at sea after an accident to survive for several days before being rescued or reaching land.

Alain Bombard (right) in 1952.

Alain Bombard (right) in 1952.

Hundred hours without sleep

Considered the father of sleep research, Nathaniel Kleitman (1895-1999) used himself in many experiments. In 1938, he spent 32 days in a cave 45 meters deep to try to modify his sleep patterns and adopt 28-hour days.

His assistant, who was with him, succeeded, but the scientist failed to do so. On another occasion, he went 180 hours without sleep to test the effects of sleep deprivation. “There is a point where anyone would confess to anything just to be allowed to sleep,” he said.

Nathaniel Kleitman undergoing sleep experiments.

Nathaniel Kleitman undergoing sleep experiments.
psueef

A novel vaccine

American physician and virologist Jonas Salk (1914-1995) is known for his development of a safe and effective vaccine against polio. After successfully using it on thousands of monkeys, in 1952 he performed the first human inoculations on two groups of Pittsburgh children and his three children, his wife and himself after sterilizing the needles and syringes in his own kitchen.

Jonas Salk vaccinating a girl.

Jonas Salk vaccinating a girl.
Commons.

A failed anesthesia

Pioneer of spinal anesthesia, August beer (1861-1949) also tested his methods on himself. After successfully anesthetizing patients undergoing lower extremity surgery with a dose of cocaine to the spine (yes, cocaine is part of the history of local anesthesia), the doctor received the same treatment.

However, when his assistant pricked him with the spinal needle, his cerebrospinal fluid flowed through it. In this way, Dr. Bier gained first-hand knowledge of the unpleasant headache experienced after a spinal tap.

August Beer and 1906.

August Beer and 1906.
American Society of Anesthesiologists

in his own heart

In 1929, in the basement of a German hospital, the resident surgeon Werner Forssmann (1904-1979) inserted a catheter into a heart for the first time. He introduced it through his elbow, making it travel through a vein until it reached the right atrium.

The curious? The heart was his own and he did the procedure with the help of a mirror. An X-ray was then taken to ensure that the introduction had been a success. In 1956 he received the Nobel Prize for his pioneering contributions to the field of cardiology.

Werner Forssmann and his catheter.

Werner Forssmann and his catheter.
Commons

An exhibitionist urologist

The doctor Giles Brindley (1926) is known, among other things, for his important contributions to the treatment of erectile dysfunction. However, the episode that made him most famous occurred during his presentation at the convention of the American Urological Association that took place in Las Vegas in 1983.

In it, after showing several slides of his erect penis after various injections, the urologist decided that the evidence was not enough and dropped his pants to show his chemically induced erection.

Musicology is Giles Brindley's other prominent career.

Musicology is Giles Brindley’s other prominent career.

damage to your nerve

British neurologist Henry Head (1861-1940) wanted to investigate what was experienced by patients who had suffered nerve damage and gradually regained sensation. However, given the lack of clear answers from the patients he examined, he decided to opt for severing one of his nerves in order to find answers.

On April 25, 1903, at the home of a surgeon friend, The doctor underwent surgery and the radial nerve of his left arm was cut, joining the two ends with silk to promote regeneration. Thanks to this, during the following months and years he was able to fully understand the functioning of the sensory nerves and the somatosensory system. All for science.

Neurologist WHR Rivers experiments on the nerve of his colleague Sir Henry Head.

Neurologist WHR Rivers experiments on the nerve of his colleague Sir Henry Head.
Commons.

riddled by bees

There are scientists who experiment on themselves for the common good and others who rather do it out of pure scientific curiosity. It is the case of Michael Smith, a Cornell University researcher who let bees sting him repeatedly in different parts of his body to see where he felt the most pain (the nostril, according to his conclusions).

This surreal investigation had the dubious honor of receiving in 2015 a Ig Nobel Prize, an American parody of the Swedish award that rewards imaginative and unusual investigations that make people laugh, together with the biologist entomologist Justin O. Schmidt, author of the Schmidt index of insect sting pain.

The table of pain elaborated by Michael Smith.

The table of pain elaborated by Michael Smith.
Commons.