(1845 - 1849)
J. Marion Sims, later hailed as the "father of gynecology," performs
medical experiments on enslaved African women without anesthesia.
These women would usually die of infection soon after surgery. Based
on his belief that the movement of newborns' skull bones during
protracted births causes trismus, he also uses a shoemaker's awl, a
pointed tool shoemakers use to make holes in leather, to practice
moving the skull bones of babies born to enslaved mothers (Brinker).
New York pediatrician Henry Heiman infects a 4-year-old boy whom he
calls "an idiot with chronic epilepsy" with gonorrhea as part of a
medical experiment ("Human Experimentation: Before the Nazi Era and
Dr. Arthur Wentworth turns 29 children at Boston's Children's
Hospital into human guinea pigs when he performs spinal taps on
them, just to test whether the procedure is harmful (Sharav).
Harvard professor Dr. Richard Strong infects prisoners in the
Philippines with cholera to study the disease; 13 of them die. He
compensates survivors with cigars and cigarettes. During the
Nuremberg Trials, Nazi doctors cite this study to justify their own
medical experiments (Greger, Sharav).
Dr. Hideyo Noguchi of
the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research
publishes data on injecting an inactive syphilis preparation into
the skin of 146 hospital patients and normal children in an attempt
to develop a skin test for syphilis. Later, in 1913, several of
these children's parents sue Dr. Noguchi for allegedly infecting
their children with syphilis ("Reviews and Notes: History of
Medicine: Subjected to Science: Human Experimentation in America
before the Second World War").
Medical experimenters "test" 15 children at the children's home St.
Vincent's House in Philadelphia with tuberculin, resulting in
permanent blindness in some of the children. Though the Pennsylvania
House of Representatives records the incident, the researchers are
not punished for the experiments ("Human Experimentation: Before the
Nazi Era and After").
Dr. Joseph Goldberger, under order of the U.S. Public Health Office,
produces Pellagra, a debilitating disease that affects the central
nervous system, in 12 Mississippi inmates to try to find a cure for
the disease. One test subject later says that he had been through "a
In 1935, after millions die from the disease, the
director of the U.S Public Health Office would finally admit that
officials had known that it was caused by a niacin deficiency for
some time, but did nothing about it because it mostly affected poor
African-Americans. During the Nuremberg Trials, Nazi doctors used
this study to try to justify their medical experiments on
concentration camp inmates (Greger; Cockburn and St. Clair, eds.).
(1932-1972) The U.S. Public Health Service in Tuskegee, Ala.
diagnoses 400 poor, black sharecroppers with syphilis but never
tells them of their illness nor treats them; instead researchers use
the men as human guinea pigs to follow the symptoms and progression
of the disease. They all eventually die from syphilis and their
families are never told that they could have been treated (Goliszek,
University of Virginia Health System Health Sciences Library).
In order to test his theory on the roots of stuttering, prominent
speech pathologist Dr. Wendell Johnson performs his famous "Monster
Experiment" on 22 children at the Iowa Soldiers' Orphans' Home in
Davenport. Dr. Johnson and his graduate students put the children
under intense psychological pressure, causing them to switch from
speaking normally to stuttering heavily. At the time, some of the
students reportedly warn Dr. Johnson that, "in the aftermath of
World War II, observers might draw comparisons to Nazi experiments
on human subjects, which could destroy his career" (Alliance for
Human Research Protection).
Dr. William C. Black infects a 12-month-old baby with herpes as part
of a medical experiment. At the time, the editor of the Journal of
Experimental Medicine, Francis Payton Rous, calls it "an abuse of
power, an infringement of the rights of an individual, and not
excusable because the illness which followed had implications for
An article in a 1941 issue of Archives of Pediatrics describes
medical studies of the severe gum disease Vincent's angina in which
doctors transmit the disease from sick children to healthy children
with oral swabs (Goliszek).
Researchers give 800 poverty-stricken pregnant women at a Vanderbilt
University prenatal clinic "cocktails" including radioactive iron in
order to determine the iron requirements of pregnant women (Pacchioli).
The Chemical Warfare Service begins mustard gas and lewisite
experiments on 4,000 members of the U.S. military. Some test
subjects don't realize they are volunteering for chemical exposure
experiments, like 17-year-old Nathan Schnurman, who in 1944 thinks
he is only volunteering to test "U.S. Navy summer clothes" (Goliszek).
Merck Pharmaceuticals President George Merck is named director of
the War Research Service (WRS), an agency designed to oversee the
establishment of a biological warfare program (Goliszek).
(1944 - 1946)
A captain in the medical corps addresses an April 1944
memo to Col. Stanford Warren, head of the Manhattan Project's
Medical Section, expressing his concerns about atom bomb component
fluoride's central nervous system (CNS) effects and asking for
animal research to be done to determine the extent of these effects:
"Clinical evidence suggests that uranium hexafluoride may have a
rather marked central nervous system effect... It seems most likely
that the F [code for fluoride] component rather than the T [code for
uranium] is the causative factor... Since work with these compounds
is essential, it will be necessary to know in advance what mental
effects may occur after exposure."
The following year, the Manhattan
Project would begin human-based studies on
(Griffiths and Bryson).
The Manhattan Project medical team, led by the now infamous
University of Rochester radiologist Col. Safford Warren, injects
plutonium into patients at the University's teaching hospital,
Strong Memorial (Burton Report).
Continuing the Manhattan Project, researchers inject plutonium into
three patients at the University of Chicago's Billings Hospital (Sharav).
The U.S. State Department, Army intelligence and the CIA begin
Operation Paperclip, offering Nazi scientists immunity and secret
identities in exchange for work on top-secret government projects on
aerodynamics and chemical warfare medicine in the United States
(1945 - 1955)
In Newburgh, N.Y., researchers linked to the Manhattan
Project begin the most extensive American study ever done on the
health effects of fluoridating public drinking water (Griffiths and
Continuing the Newburg study of 1945, the Manhattan Project
commissions the University of Rochester to study fluoride's effects
on animals and humans in a project codenamed "Program F."
help of the New York State Health Department, Program F researchers
secretly collect and analyze blood and tissue samples from Newburg
residents. The studies are sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission
and take place at the University of Rochester Medical Center's
Strong Memorial Hospital (Griffiths and Bryson).
(1946 - 1947)
University of Rochester researchers inject four male
and two female human test subjects with uranium-234 and uranium-235
in dosages ranging from 6.4 to 70.7 micrograms per one kilogram of
body weight in order to study how much uranium they could tolerate
before their kidneys become damaged (Goliszek).
Six male employees of a Chicago metallurgical laboratory are given
water contaminated with plutonium-239 to drink so that researchers
can learn how plutonium is absorbed into the digestive tract (Goliszek).
Researchers begin using patients in VA hospitals as test subjects
for human medical experiments, cleverly worded as "investigations"
or "observations" in medical study reports to avoid negative
connotations and bad publicity (Sharav).
The American public finally learns of the biowarfare experiments
being done at Fort Detrick from a report released by the War
Col. E.E. Kirkpatrick of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)
issues a top-secret document (707075) dated Jan. 8. In it, he writes
that "certain radioactive substances are being prepared for
intravenous administration to human subjects as a part of the work
of the contract" (Goliszek).
A secret AEC document dated April 17 reads,
"It is desired that no
document be released which refers to experiments with humans that
might have an adverse reaction on public opinion or result in legal
suits," revealing that the U.S. government was aware of the health
risks its nuclear tests posed to military personnel conducting the
tests or nearby civilians (Goliszek).
The CIA begins studying LSD's potential as a weapon by using
military and civilian test subjects for experiments without their
consent or even knowledge. Eventually, these LSD studies will evolve
the MKULTRA program in 1953 (Sharav).
(1947 - 1953)
The U.S. Navy begins Project Chatter to identify and
test so-called "truth serums," such as those used by the Soviet
Union to interrogate spies. Mescaline and the central nervous system
depressant scopolamine are among the many drugs tested on human
Based on the secret studies performed on Newburgh, N.Y. residents
beginning in 1945, Project F researchers publish a report in the
August 1948 edition of the Journal of the American Dental
Association, detailing fluoride's health dangers. The U.S. Atomic
Energy Commission (AEC) quickly censors it for "national security"
reasons (Griffiths and Bryson).
(1950 - 1953) The U.S. Army releases chemical clouds over six
American and Canadian cities. Residents in Winnipeg, Canada, where a
highly toxic chemical called cadmium is dropped, subsequently
experience high rates of respiratory illnesses (Cockburn and St.
In order to determine how susceptible an American city could be to
biological attack, the U.S. Navy sprays a cloud of Bacillus globigii
bacteria from ships over the San Francisco shoreline. According to
monitoring devices situated throughout the city to test the extent
of infection, the eight thousand residents of San Francisco inhale
five thousand or more bacteria particles, many becoming sick with
pneumonia-like symptoms (Goliszek).
Dr. Joseph Strokes of the University of Pennsylvania infects 200
female prisoners with viral hepatitis to study the disease (Sharav).
Doctors at the Cleveland City Hospital study changes in cerebral
blood flow by injecting test subjects with spinal anesthesia,
inserting needles in their jugular veins and brachial arteries,
tilting their heads down and, after massive blood loss causes
paralysis and fainting, measuring their blood pressure. They often
perform this experiment multiple times on the same subject (Goliszek).
Dr. D. Ewen Cameron, later of MKULTRA infamy due to his 1957 to1964
experiments on Canadians, publishes an article in the British
Journal of Physical Medicine, in which he describes experiments that
entail forcing schizophrenic patients at Manitoba's Brandon Mental
Hospital to lie naked under 15- to 200-watt red lamps for up to
eight hours per day.
His other experiments include placing mental
patients in an electric cage that overheats their internal body
temperatures to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, and inducing comas by giving
patients large injections of insulin (Goliszek).
The U.S. Army secretly contaminates the Norfolk Naval Supply Center
in Virginia and Washington, D.C.'s National Airport with a strain of
bacteria chosen because African-Americans were believed to be more
susceptible to it than Caucasians. The experiment causes food
poisoning, respiratory problems and blood poisoning (Cockburn and
St. Clair, eds.).
(1951 - 1956)
Under contract with the Air Force's School of Aviation
Medicine (SAM), the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
in Houston begins studying the effects of radiation on cancer
patients - many of them members of minority groups or indigents,
according to sources - in order to determine both radiation's
ability to treat cancer and the possible long-term radiation effects
of pilots flying nuclear-powered planes.
The study lasts until 1956,
involving 263 cancer patients. Beginning in 1953, the subjects are
required to sign a waiver form, but it still does not meet the
informed consent guidelines established by the Wilson memo released
The TBI studies themselves would continue at four
different institutions - Baylor University College of Medicine,
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, the U.S.
Naval Hospital in Bethesda and the University of Cincinnati College
of Medicine - until 1971 (U.S. Department of Energy, Goliszek).
American, Canadian and British military and intelligence officials
gather a small group of eminent psychologists to a secret meeting at
the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal about Communist "thought-control
techniques." They proposed a top-secret research program on behavior
modification - involving testing drugs, hypnosis, electroshock and
lobotomies on humans (Barker).
At the famous Sloan-Kettering Institute,
Chester M. Southam injects
live cancer cells into prisoners at the Ohio State Prison to study
the progression of the disease. Half of the prisoners in this
National Institutes of Health-sponsored (NIH) study are black,
awakening racial suspicions stemming from Tuskegee, which was also
an NIH-sponsored study (Merritte, et al.).
(1953 - 1974)
The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) sponsors
iodine studies at the University of Iowa. In the first study,
researchers give pregnant women 100 to 200 microcuries of iodine-131
and then study the women's aborted embryos in order to learn at what
stage and to what extent radioactive iodine crosses the placental
In the second study, researchers give 12 male and 13 female
newborns under 36 hours old and weighing between 5.5 and 8.5 pounds
iodine-131 either orally or via intramuscular injection, later
measuring the concentration of iodine in the newborns' thyroid
As part of an AEC study, researchers feed 28 healthy infants at the
University of Nebraska College of Medicine iodine-131 through a
gastric tube and then test concentration of iodine in the infants'
thyroid glands 24 hours later (Goliszek).
(1953 - 1957)
Eleven patients at Massachusetts General Hospital in
Boston are injected with uranium as part of the Manhattan Project (Sharav).
In an AEC-sponsored study at the University of Tennessee,
researchers inject healthy two- to three-day-old newborns with
approximately 60 rads of iodine-131 (Goliszek).
Newborn Daniel Burton becomes blind when physicians at Brooklyn
Doctors Hospital perform an experimental high oxygen treatment for
Retrolental Fibroplasia, a retinal disorder affecting premature
infants, on him and other premature babies.
The physicians perform
the experimental treatment despite earlier studies showing that high
oxygen levels cause blindness. Testimony in Burton v. Brooklyn
Doctors Hospital (452 N.Y.S.2d875) later reveals that researchers
continued to give Burton and other infants excess oxygen even after
their eyes had swelled to dangerous levels (Goliszek, Sharav).
A 1953 article in Clinical Science describes a medical experiment in
which researchers purposely blister the abdomens of 41 children,
ranging in age from eight to 14, with cantharide in order to study
how severely the substance irritates the skin (Goliszek).
The AEC performs a series of field tests known as "Green Run,"
dropping radiodine 131 and xenon 133 over the Hanford, Wash. site - 500,000 acres encompassing three small towns (Hanford, White Bluffs
and Richland) along the Columbia River (Sharav).
In an AEC-sponsored study to learn whether radioactive iodine
affects premature babies differently from full-term babies,
researchers at Harper Hospital in Detroit give oral doses of
iodine-131 to 65 premature and full-term infants weighing between
2.1 and 5.5 pounds (Goliszek).
(1955 - 1957)
In order to learn how cold weather affects human
physiology, researchers give a total of 200 doses of iodine-131, a
radioactive tracer that concentrates almost immediately in the
thyroid gland, to 85 healthy Eskimos and 17 Athapascan Indians
living in Alaska.
They study the tracer within the body by blood,
thyroid tissue, urine and saliva samples from the test subjects. Due
to the language barrier, no one tells the test subjects what is
being done to them, so there is no informed consent (Goliszek).
(1956 - 1957)
U.S. Army covert biological weapons researchers
release mosquitoes infected with yellow fever and dengue fever over
Savannah, Ga., and Avon Park, Fla., to test the insects' ability to
carry disease. After each test, Army agents pose as public health
officials to test victims for effects and take pictures of the
unwitting test subjects.
These experiments result in a high
incidence of fevers, respiratory distress, stillbirths, encephalitis
and typhoid among the two cities' residents, as well as several
deaths (Cockburn and St. Clair, eds.).
The U.S. military conducts Operation Plumbbob at the Nevada Test
Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Operation Pumbbob consists of
29 nuclear detonations, eventually creating radiation expected to
result in a total 32,000 cases of thyroid cancer among civilians in
Around 18,000 members of the U.S. military participate in
Operation Pumbbob's Desert Rock VII and VIII, which are designed to
see how the average foot soldier physiologically and mentally
responds to a nuclear battlefield ("Operation Plumbbob", Goliszek).
(1957 - 1964)
As part of
MKULTRA, the CIA pays McGill University
Department of Psychiatry founder Dr. D. Ewen Cameron $69,000 to
perform LSD studies and potentially lethal experiments on Canadians
being treated for minor disorders like post-partum depression and
anxiety at the Allan Memorial Institute, which houses the Psychiatry
Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.
encourages Dr. Cameron to fully explore his "psychic driving"
concept of correcting madness through completely erasing one's
memory and rewriting the psyche. These "driving" experiments involve
putting human test subjects into drug-, electroshock- and sensory
deprivation-induced vegetative states for up to three months, and
then playing tape loops of noise or simple repetitive statements for
weeks or months in order to "rewrite" the "erased" psyche.
Cameron also gives human test subjects paralytic drugs and
electroconvulsive therapy 30 to 40 times, as part of his
experiments. Most of Dr. Cameron's test subjects suffer permanent
damage as a result of his work (Goliszek, "Donald Ewan Cameron").
In order to study how blood flows through children's brains,
researchers at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia perform the
following experiment on healthy children, ranging in age from three
to 11: They insert needles into each child's femoral artery (thigh)
and jugular vein (neck), bringing the blood down from the brain.
Then, they force each child to inhale a special gas through a
In their subsequent Journal of Clinical Investigation
article on this study, the researchers note that, in order to
perform the experiment, they had to restrain some of the child test
subjects by bandaging them to boards (Goliszek).
The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) drops radioactive materials
over Point Hope, Alaska, home to the Inupiats, in a field test known
under the codename "Project Chariot" (Sharav).
In response to the Nuremberg Trials, Yale psychologist
Stanley Milgram begins his famous Obedience to Authority Study in order to
answer his question "Could it be that (Adolf) Eichmann and his
million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?
Could we call them all accomplices?"
Male test subjects, ranging in
age from 20 to 40 and coming from all education backgrounds, are
told to give "learners" electric shocks for every wrong answer the
learners give in response to word pair questions. In reality, the
learners are actors and are not receiving electric shocks, but what
matters is that the test subjects do not know that.
they keep on following orders and continue to administer
increasingly high levels of "shocks," even after the actor learners
show obvious physical pain ("Milgram Experiment").
Researchers at the Laurel Children's Center in Maryland test
experimental acne antibiotics on children and continue their tests
even after half of the young test subjects develop severe liver
damage because of the experimental medication (Goliszek).
The FDA begins requiring that a new pharmaceutical undergo three
human clinical trials before it will approve it. From 1962 to 1980,
pharmaceutical companies satisfy this requirement by running Phase I
trials, which determine a drug's toxicity, on prison inmates, giving
them small amounts of cash for compensation (Sharav).
Chester M. Southam, who injected Ohio State Prison inmates with live
cancer cells in 1952, performs the same procedure on 22 senile,
African-American female patients at the Brooklyn Jewish Chronic
Disease Hospital in order to watch their immunological response.
Southam tells the patients that they are receiving "some cells," but
leaves out the fact that they are cancer cells.
He claims he doesn't
obtain informed consent from the patients because he does not want
to frighten them by telling them what he is doing, but he
nevertheless temporarily loses his medical license because of it.
Ironically, he eventually becomes president of the American Cancer
Society (Greger, Merritte, et al.).
Researchers at the University of Washington directly irradiate the
testes of 232 prison inmates in order to determine radiation's
effects on testicular function. When these inmates later leave
prison and have children, at least four have babies born with birth
defects. The exact number is unknown because researchers never
follow up on the men to see the long-term effects of their
(1963 - 1966)
New York University researcher Saul Krugman promises
parents with mentally disabled children definite enrollment into the
Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, N.Y., a resident mental
institution for mentally retarded children, in exchange for their
signatures on a consent form for procedures presented as
In reality, the procedures involve deliberately
infecting children with viral hepatitis by feeding them an extract
made from the feces of infected patients, so that Krugman can study
the course of viral hepatitis as well the effectiveness of a
hepatitis vaccine (Hammer Breslow).
(1963 - 1971)
Leading endocrinologist Dr. Carl Heller gives 67
prison inmates at Oregon State Prison in Salem $5 per month and $25
per testicular tissue biopsy in compensation for allowing him to
perform irradiation experiments on their testes. If they receive
vasectomies at the end of the study, the prisoners are given an
extra $100 (Sharav, Goliszek).
Researchers inject a genetic compound called radioactive thymidine
into the testicles of more than 100 Oregon State Penitentiary
inmates to learn whether sperm production is affected by exposure to
steroid hormones (Greger).
In a study published in Pediatrics, researchers at the University of
California's Department of Pediatrics use 113 newborns ranging in
age from one hour to three days old in a series of experiments used
to study changes in blood pressure and blood flow.
In one study,
doctors insert a catheter through the newborns' umbilical arteries
and into their aortas and then immerse the newborns' feet in ice
water while recording aortic pressure. In another experiment,
doctors strap 50 newborns to a circumcision board, tilt the table so
that all the blood rushes to their heads and then measure their
blood pressure (Goliszek).
(1964 - 1967)
The Dow Chemical Company pays Professor
$10,000 to learn how dioxin - a highly toxic, carcinogenic
component of Agent Orange - and other herbicides affect human skin
because workers at the chemical plant have been developing an
acne-like condition called Chloracne and the company would like to
know whether the chemicals they are handling are to blame.
of the study, Professor Kligman applies roughly the amount of dioxin
Dow employees are exposed to on the skin 60 prisoners, and is
disappointed when the prisoners show no symptoms of Chloracne.
1980 and 1981, the human guinea pigs used in this study would begin
suing Professor Kligman for complications including lupus and
psychological damage (Kaye).