Here is a list of 10 People Who were Very Devoted to their Experiment.

01. Evan O’Neill Kane

Evan O’Neill Kane

1921

While laying on an operating table waiting for his appendix to be removed, Kane decided to conduct an experiment. So after sitting up, he told everyone to step back and let him do his thing. Being the chief surgeon of the hospital the staff listened. After putting some pillows behind his neck and back so he could see better the injected cocaine and adrenaline into his abdominal wall. Swiftly cutting through the tissues, he found the appendix and cut it out. The operation took roughly thirty minutes. The only moment of panic was when his intestines popped out of his stomach when he leaned too far forward, but he calmly shoved his guts back inside and continued. Emboldened by his success, when he needed a hernia operation eleven years later, at the age of seventy-one, he decided to self-operate again. Unfortunately, this second surgery proved more problematic. He never fully regained his strength, came down with pneumonia and died three months later.


02. Johann Wilhelm Ritter

Johann Wilhelm Ritter

In 1800, Alessandro Volta announced his invention of the Voltaic pile — the world’s first electric battery that allowed for a continuous, steady, and strong flow of electric current. A German physicist named Johann Wilhelm Ritter took advantage of this discovery to apply the poles of a Voltaic pile systematically to every part of his body. (Most can see where this is going now)

Ritter applied current to his tongue where it produced an acidic flavor. Shoving the wires up his nose made him sneeze. Touching them to his eyeballs caused strange colors to swim in his vision. Ritter also applied the current to his genitals, which he found rather pleasurable. He wrapped his reproductive organ in a cloth moistened with lukewarm milk, then applied the current. Swelling soon occurred, followed by the climax. He had become a pioneer of electro-orgasm. Also, he told people occasionally that he would marry his Voltaic pile. As he kept increasing the current to higher levels and using opium to dull the pain, problems began to occur. Eyes started to get infected. Frequent headaches, muscle spasms, numbness, and stomach cramps. His lungs filled with mucus. One time his arm got paralyzed for a week. It is believed that all the medical conditions he had from his experiments contributed to his death from tuberculosis.

03. John Paul Stapp

John Paul Stapp

1947.

After World War II, the US Air Force needed to know if pilots could eject from jets without certain death from rapid deceleration. (which would be 40-50 Gs).

Flight surgeon John Paul Stapp volunteered as a guinea pig to see how much a human could handle. Stapp designed a rocket-powered sled that blasted down a 3500-foot track at speeds up to 750 mph before slamming into a pool of water that brought it to an abrupt halt. It went from 750 mph to zero in one second. Slowly going faster every time he took 29 rides over a period of 7 years. On his final ride, he went 632 mph and got hit with 46.2 Gs. Stapp survived, but he later wrote of the experience, “It felt as though my eyes were being pulled out of my head… I lifted my eyelids with my fingers, but I couldn’t see a thing.” His eyesight returned but he had vision problems the rest of his life.

04. Nicolae Minovici

Nicolae Minovici

1903.

As a professor of forensic science at the State School of Science in Bucharest, Minovici took a study on death by hanging. He decided to find out how it would be to die this way. Minovici started his self-hanging experiments by making his own device. A rope through a pulley attached to the ceiling with one end of the rope around his neck and the other in his hand. Firmly pulling the rope the noose tightened, his face turned a purple-red, his vision blurred, and he heard whistling. He lasted only six seconds before consciousness began to slip away, forcing him to stop.

For the next stage, he needed assistants to do the pulling for him. The assistants pulled the rope with all their might, lifting him several meters off the ground. Immediately his eyes squeezed shut and his respiratory tract pinched close. He signaled frantically to be let down. In this first effort, Minovici lasted only a few seconds in the air before having to signal to be let down, but with repeated practice, he eventually managed to endure twenty-five seconds of swinging by his neck. For his last experiment, he needed to be hanging from the ceiling by a constricting hangman’s knot. He only lasted 4 seconds and his feet didn’t even leave the ground.

Minovici’s later career wasn’t as masochistic. He developed an interest in Romanian folk art and founded a museum that exists to this day.

05. Frederick Hoelzel (Also known as the Human Billy Goat)

Frederick Hoelzel (Also known as the Human Billy Goat)

1920.

As a teenager, Frederick Hoelzel had his own way of weight-loss. Eating non-caloric things such as corn cobs, sawdust, cork, feathers, asbestos, rayon, and banana stems. His favorite meal was surgical cotton cut up into small pieces, which became part of his daily diet. During the 1920s, while working as a researcher at the University of Chicago, he decided to eat unusual substances to see how quickly they passed through his intestines. He scooped up gravel from the walkway outside the lab, swallowed it down, and recorded that it rattled out into his toilet fifty-two hours later. Steel balls and silver wire took about 80 hours. Gold pellets took 22 days and glass beads only 40 hours. His intestinal speed record was set by a piece of knotted twine that zipped through him in mere one-and-a-half hours, aided along by a violent bout of diarrhea. He continued these experiments daily (except on Christmas where he only had a small meal of digestible food) well into the 1930s. Hoelzel never became a full professor, only attaining the rank of “Assistant in Physiology” at the University of Chicago.

06. Joseph Barcroft

Joseph Barcroft

1930s.

Working as a researcher after graduating from Cambridge, Barcroft was very interested in the idea of the oxygenation in the blood. In order to complete his studies, Barcroft committed himself to several self-experiments that pushed him to the edge of his physical and mental limits. In one of his first experiments on the study of dangerous gases known to cause asphyxiation during the chemical warfare of WWI, he decided to shut himself into a chamber full of hydrogen cyanide for 10 minutes. While the dog that accompanied him lasted only 95 seconds before dying, Barcroft was able to tough it out and last the full 10 minutes. In another experiment, he went into a low-oxygen chamber to find the minimum amount of oxygen needed to survive. For nearly a week he breathed as if being on an elevation of 4,900 meters (16,000 ft) causing his body to turn blue. In one last experiment, he locked himself naked in a refrigerated chamber to see the mental effects of freezing. There he found out that at a certain point close to lethal hypothermia you actually begin to feel warm instead of cold. He could get out anytime he wanted but he only left after falling unconscious and an assistant removing him. Barcroft survived his ordeal without ill effect and lived to be seventy-four, at which age he dropped dead while riding a bus.

07. Allan Walker Blair

Allan Walker Blair

In November 1933, University of Alabama professor Allan Walker Blair used a pair of forceps to place a female black widow spider against the index finger of his left hand and held it there for 10 seconds. Blair later explained his actions as part of an experimental study of the effects of the bite of the female black widow on man. A curious aspect of this experiment was that the effects of the bite were already known. William Baerg, had conducted a similar self-experiment twelve years earlier. Baerg had been rushed to the hospital nine hours after being bitten, where he spent three days tossing and turning, wracked by nightmarish, feverish pain. Blair was not only aware of this, but decided to allow the spider to bite him for twice as long as Baerg had risked. As a result, his suffering was proportionately greater. Within minutes after the bite, Blair began to experience severe muscular cramps that made it difficult for him to breathe. Two hours later, he was writhing on the floor, perspiring profusely, and had to be rushed to the hospital. Despite the agony he was experiencing, Blair insisted the hospital take electrocardiograms to determine the effect of the venom on his heart and the measurements were found to be normal. Blair’s agony didn’t let up for several days. At one point, he became so delirious that he feared he was losing his mind. Thankfully, after a week the worst was over and he was allowed to return home. Based on this self-experiment, Blair concluded what may have seemed rather obvious to everyone else — that the bite of a female black widow spider is indeed “dangerously poisonous for man.”

08. Edwin Katskee

Edwin Katskee

1936.

Cocaine was still used as an anesthetic in medicine but occasionally patients had bad reactions to it. In an effort to find out why this was the case, the Nebraska proctologist Edwin Katskee gave himself a large injection of cocaine on the night of 25 November 1936. He then recorded the clinical course of his symptoms in notes written on the wall of his office. As it turned out, the amount of cocaine he gave himself was so large it proved fatal. The media described his note-filled wall as his “death diary”. Katskee scrawled the notes in no apparent order, but it was possible to piece together their chronology by the decreasing legibility of his handwriting. An early note recorded: “Eyes mildly dilated. Vision excellent.” The cocaine caused bouts of paralysis and convulsions that came in waves. In between one of these bouts he wrote, “Partial recovery. Smoked cigarette.” High up on the wall he scribbled, “Now able to stand up.” And elsewhere, “After depression is terrible. Advise all inquisitive M.D.’s to lay off this stuff.” In one spot, in a shaky hand, he recorded his “Clinical course over about twelve minutes”. This ended with the word “Paralysis,” which tapered off into a wavy scrawl descending to the floor. It was probably the last word he ever wrote. There was a debate about if his death was a suicide or experiment gone wrong. The point of argument is the antidote they found at the scene but unused. In either way his death was tragic because when his notes were subsequently examined by one of his medical colleagues, the doctor concluded they were so incoherent as to be of no scientific value whatsoever.

09. Giovanni Battista Grassi

Giovanni Battista Grassi

On 10 October 1878, the Sicilian doctor Giovanni Battista Grassi was conducting an autopsy when he found the large intestine of the corpse to be riddled with tapeworm. Grassi immediately realized he could ingest some of the eggs and prove it was possible to infect oneself with tapeworms in this way. Before he could start this experiment he would have to be sure he wasn’t affected already. So for a year long he examined his feces for any worm activity. Finally, on 20 July 1879, he felt confident he was free of worms, so he spooned 100 of the eggs out of their fecal home and swallowed them down. A month later, much to his pleasure, Grassi experienced intestinal discomfort and then found tapeworm eggs in his stool. His experiment was a success. Having confirmed his infestation, he treated himself with an herbal anti-worm medicine, and flushed the immature parasites out of his body. After the example set by Grassi, self-infection with worm eggs became something of a gruesome rite of passage among parasitologists. In 1887, Friedrich Zschokke and his students at the University of Basel ingested tapeworm eggs and grew worms up to six feet in length in their intestines. In 1922, the Japanese pediatrician Shimesu Koino set a record by consuming 2000 mature Ascaris lumbricoides eggs, giving himself such a full-blown infection that he began coughing up larval worms from his lungs.

10. Herbert Woollard / Edward Carmicheal

Herbert Woollard - Edward Carmicheal

In 1933, either Herbert Woollard or Edward Carmichael had weights stacked on his testicles for the sake of science. It’s not possible to say exactly which one of these London-based doctors bore the unusual burden, because while both participated in the experiment, only one of them lay on a table and suffered the scrotal compression. The other one did the stacking. They never revealed who served in which capacity — nor how they chose who was to be the unlucky one. Their motive for this experiment was to better understand referred pain. (The phenomenon in which injury to an internal organ causes pain to be felt elsewhere in the body.) The two doctors noted that, of all the internal organs, the testicles were the most “accessible to investigation” and therefore seemed ideal for a study of referred pain. During the experiment, the subject lay spread-eagled on a table, exposing his genitals. His colleague stooped over him and gripped the other man’s scrotal sac, drawing it forward and gently cradling it in his hand. He then rested a scale pan on a single testis, and carefully piled weights onto the pan, recording the reaction of the subject with each increase of weight. They described the agony of the victim only in dry, clinical details. Woollard and Carmichael conducted a number of variations of the experiment, in which they numbed nerves leading to the testes in order to determine how this would alter the sensation. This produced the interesting finding that, even though they eventually numbed what they believed to be every nerve leading to the testes, they couldn’t entirely abolish the pain of compression. The testes are highly sensitive organs! Their results remain the definitive word on this subject since no other scientists have ever repeated the experiment.

Last Update: May 3, 2020