Check Out The Craziest Things People Do To Their Bodies For Science
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words “self-experimentation?” If you’re anything like me, then you’re probably thinking of psychological experiments or what workout is finally going to give you Gisele legs. What, I imagine, doesn’t come to mind is paying 30k to get a brain surgery you don’t need, shooting yourself underwater, or almost blinding yourself in the name of science. And yet, people have done some insane things to themselves in the name of advancing medical research, putting themselves in constant danger that have sometimes even resulted in death. The risks may be high, but that certainly didn’t stop the people listed below.
Scroll down to see some of the craziest things people have done to themselves willingly.
1. Created a hanging sensation to see what it felt like.
In the early 20th century professor Nikolae Minovici did a comprehensive study of death by hanging and became extremely curious to see what that would feel like. No big deal. The first experiment he conducted consisted of building an auto-asphyxiation device that he tested on himself. The second one required the help of assistants to actually hang him. After lifting him a few meters off the floor his eyes squeezed shut and his respiratory tract pinched close, but with repeated practice Minovici was finally able to endure 25 seconds swinging by his neck. The final experiment was to be hanged from the ceiling by a tight hangman’s knot. After the hanging began the constriction was so strong that he had to stop after four seconds, and the after-effects of the trauma to his neck made it difficult to swallow for a whole month. It’s hard to sympathize with him when he willingly and repeatedly hung himself for kicks. I think this is what we call self-inflicted BDSM, on crack.
2. Pushed a tube through their veins and into their heart
Well, that’s one way to reach my heart.
Have you ever wondered what it would take to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine? Well let me tell you, it ain’t easy. Dr. Werner Forssmann wanted to push the advances of cardiology despite being denied permission to experiment time and time again. Yet he was so determined to do it that, in 1929, he risked his life by inserting a 65-cm-long ureteral tube into his arm and slowly inching it towards his heart. At any given moment the catheter could have pierced his vein and killed him, but Forssmann was very determined, and with the tube in his body there was no turning back. When he thought it had reached his heart he walked all the way to the X-Ray room only to find out that it had not reached its destination. So what did he do? He shoved it on in, fighting the urge to cough as the tube collided against his vein because that’s how much of a badass he was. After several inches more, he had his assistant take another X-Ray, this one showing that the catheter had reached his heart. But guess what? He had to repeat this a few times over the next years to prove that his self-catheter procedure was safe. As such, he became known as a medical rebel that frequently left him unemployed until he switched to urology. It wasn’t until 1956 that he was awarded with the Nobel Prize for his advances and he could finally tell his ex-colleagues “I told you so.” But seriously, life-saving procedures such as pacemaker insertions, angioplasties, and valve repairs wouldn’t have been possible if it hadn’t been for this cardiology badass. So thanks doc, we owe you big time.
3. Underwent neurosurgery to try to hack his brain
Dr. Phil Kennedy has been getting a lot of media attention lately for undergoing an 11-hour brain surgery in which a set of glass-and-gold-wire electrodes were implanted under the surface of his brain. You’re probably thinking, “WHAT THE EFFIN HELL?!” but he’s one of many passionate doctors who, in a desperate attempt to advance his own experiments, decided to test on himself. You see, in the late ’90s he was quite famous for helping Johnny Ray, a paralyzed man, type with his brain by using electrode technology. Unfortunately in the years to come, he lost funding and the FDA revoked its approval for his implants. But this didn’t break him; rather, it made him more ambitious, and in 2014 he travelled to Belize to have a neurosurgeon implant a few electrodes into his brain followed by a set of electronic components beneath his scalp. A few months later he returned to Belize to have a second surgery that would connect a power coil and a radio transceiver to the wires poking out from his brain. The goal of both of these surgeries was to crack the neural code of human speech, but unfortunately he wasn’t successful. After 88 days of gathering data, he went in for one last surgery to take out the wires, power coil, and transceiver. Sorry bro, but sometimes you gotta leave the game when you’re still on top.
4. Ejected himself from supersonic jets.
Ok I know, the title for this sounds super cool, but really it’s not as awesome as you think. After WWII, the U.S. Air Force wanted to know how much force pilots could take while being ejected by jets, and there enters John Paul Stapp. He volunteered to a total of 29 brutal experiences over the lapse of seven years, during which he broke bones, dislocated his shoulders, repeatedly blacked out, suffered concussions, cracked ribs, and had constant splitting headaches. Seriously, what was wrong with him? Was the adrenaline rush really that great? At the time of the experiments it was believed that 18 Gs was the most a human body could endure (one G equals the force of gravity at the surface of the earth, while 40 Gs is the equivalent to a 7k-pound elephant toppling on top of you), but on Stapp’s last ride he broke the record at 46.2 Gs of force. He survived, but the last ride left him with vision problems for the rest of his life due to a detached retina and a bursted blood vessel in his eye. The force was not strong with this one, but at least he lived.
5. Drank an infectious, ulcer-inducing broth.
After years of watching patients die from stomach ulcers, Aussie doctor Barry Marshall knew that he had to step out and find a cure to the illness that affected 10% of adults at the time. He started working with a pathologist who two years earlier had discovered a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori and, after some research, Marshall found that this same bacteria was found in both ulcers and cancer. Unfortunately the bacteria only affects primates, and experimenting on humans was out of the question. Desperate from seeing people die left and right, he did the only thing he could think of and volunteered as tribute. He mixed the bacteria from a sick patient into a broth and downed it like a frat boy playing beer pong. Obviously he got sick and after awhile was able to prove that this bacteria was the underlying cause of ulcers. Until then, doctors thought that ulcers were caused by stress, but now they knew different. And the good news was that the cure was simple—antibiotics! Oh, and I almost forget, he also got a Nobel Prize for the discovery in 2005. Kudos mate!
Main image by Kathryn Chadason. Additional images via Amblin Entertainment, The Mad Science Museum, Dan Winters, and Penn State.
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