Episode 131 - The Artful Todger (Medical Procedures and Men Behaving Badly Week)
I would like to start with an honorary mention, for the second time, of Soranus of Ephesus, the Ancient Greek physician who’s work, Gynaecology, survives to this day. So yes, that’s Soranus’s Gynaecology.
It took me no time at all this week for find a good topic, thanks to a book about the history of medicine what I possess in my extensive library. It’s a big book, but I’m a well smart researcher, and I have a few clever tricks up my sleeve. What I did right, now pay attention everyone, is go to the index and look up silly things. You know, haemorrhoids, sex, penis, that sort of thing. And I struck gold. This week I am going to be discussing a few rather odd individuals who enjoyed transplanting animal tissue into men’s bollocks, and on occasion, women’s you-know-whats, how’s your fathers, apples and pears, I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts, safety pins, fire engines, I can’t believe it’s not butter. I seamlessly blended there, in a mock nervous verbal fumbling, into Boris Johnson trying to get Carrie in the mood, “veni, vidi, vici, just not in that order one hopes…” And yes that’s a Latin euphemism.
Back on track, I have three individuals, spanning cunties and incontinence, sorry, misread my notes, countries and continents, who did weird things with men’s knackers in the name of medicine. Let’s work chronologically, starting with Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard who was born in Mauritius in 1817. He had a French mother and an American dad. He spent time working in American, England and France. He career was very respectable; he became a professor and worked at Harvard and many other venerable institutions, he even has a syndrome to do with the spine named after him, but there was part of his personality that was a bit balmy. Let’s get onto the fun stuff.
He once swallowed the vomit of a cholera sufferer because he wanted to try out an experimental treatment for cholera. He also once varnished his entire body. Possibly a scientific experiment, maybe a kink. Who knows. More amusingly still, at the age of 72 he announced to the Medical Community his "rejuvenated sexual prowess after subcutaneous injection of extracts of monkey testis," and separate quote, “My digestion and the working of my bowels have also improved considerably… I also find mental work easier than for years”. He measured his physical abilities in interesting ways; some quite sensible, i.e. how much weight he could lift, how long he could stand up for, the ease with which he walked upstairs, but also how far he could piss.
So yes, Brown-Sequard was putting slices of animal bollocks in his own bollocks. In his quote he mentions monkeys, he also used guinea pigs and dogs, why these were chosen I do not know, perhaps because they are rather docile and obliging, unlike, for example, a shire horse that I imagine would give the person taking a vegetable peeler to his conkers, also known as horse-chestnuts, a firm kick.
The mid 19th century is when the speciality of endocrinology began really so as much I am mocking Brown-Sequard, and will continue to do so, not much was known about hormones at the time and at least by focussing on the testicles, Brown-Sequard was right about where testosterone was produced.
Despite the medical community thinking that these injections were lunacy, word soon got out and unscrupulous individuals were selling Brown-Sequard’s concoction everywhere, and the share price of Guinea Pigs R Us skyrocketed. Most famously, Jim Galvin, who is apparently a famous rounders player, or baseball player to our American listeners, had this concoction injected into his danglies making him one of the first recorded dopers, and the first in a long list of American baseball dopers. “Look at the Russians! They’re all doping! State sponsored.” Yeah right Americans, because American college sports aren’t rife with dope. Sure!
Let’s move forward to the 1920s and 1930s. Introducing Serge Voronoff, a French surgeon who was born in 1866 but only started doing weird things to men’s clankers in the 1920s and 1930s. Like Brown-Sequard, Voronoff started out his career in a fairly respectable, mainstream way. At the turn of the century he studied eunuchs in Egypt, scientifically, not for fun, and this led him a few decades later to his, ‘rejuvenation’ work. So what is rejuvenation? Well it’s the Philosopher’s Stone! The Elixir of Life! Its parts of monkey testicles grafted onto human testicles. Apparently, and I do find this hard to believe, he began with taking the nuts of dead criminals, and then grafted them onto rich millionaires. When he ran out of stealing the family jewels of people who stole family jewels, he turned to monkeys, brass monkeys of monkeys and he became very popular. I like to think of him as the plastic-surgeon who has cornered the bored, loaded housewife market and who keeps getting referrals of dim-witted bimbos wanting a tummy tuck so that they can get rogered by their personal tennis coach without their gut flapping around. He was so popular that he set up a clinic in Algiers and treated thousands of men, including football players for Wolverhampton Wanderers, making it one of the early recorded attempts to dope in football. Voronoff was so busy he even set up a monkey farm, and that’s a farm producing monkeys, not a normal farm run by monkeys.
Eventually Voronoff fell out of favour with the medical community, despite initially having his work views positively. It sounds to me that as science developed, and evidence was mounting against his grafts, he continued to do them because he was making a fortune, rather than responding to medical developments and developing what he offered. In the end his reputation was ruined. One last thing about Voronoff, he was known during his lifetime, rather derogatorily as ‘monkey gland man’. I can’t help but feel that his detractors weren’t trying hard enough when it came to nicknames, because there’s plenty to work with. Voronoff Slice-ur-bollocks-off, Voronoff Cocktail, Knacker-Whacker, Ball-Botherer etc.
Now last but by no means least, John R. Brinkley, born 1885 in Jackson County, North Carolina. Unlike Brown-Sequard and Voronoff, John Brinkley was never credible and never had any proper qualifications, but boy did he want to. He went to some very sketchy institutions to train as a physician, basically night schools: great for learning how to order dinner at French restaurant or badly draw naked fat men with charcoals, not quite so good for learning medicine. Eventually he decided to just buy himself a qualification. He then set up a clinic called "Greenville Electro Medic Doctors"
Cupping your balls,
They are safe in my hands,
I will inject your balls,
With random goat glands,
…and he began injecting men’s balls with coloured water, telling them that it would making them. (silly sales voice) virile, fertile, lusty. Do you like having an erection? Do you like giving your wife a good seeing to? But are you struggling to get your cocky rocky? Is your wife starting to eye up the mechanic who works on your Cadillac? Mmmmm, I bet he doesn’t struggle to get an erection. I bet his wanger is bigger than yours too. But don’t worry! Today is your lucky day!”
Anyway, Brinkley was as bad at running a business as he was at medicine, and everything went shit-shape despite him charging patients a fortune. He had a spell in prison, had to repay debts and finally finished his night-school medical degree which unbelievable allowed him to practice medicine in 8 states, those states being drunk, tired, annoyed, hyper, vengeful, hungry and fidgety.
He managed to avoid any action during the First World War, despite being called up. He spent most of his time in the hospital tent feeling a bit anxious and upset because of all the German micro-aggressions. It sounds like he could have done with growing a big pair of… goats testicles became Brinkley’s obsession after the war, and he began charging men, and women I should add, lots and lots of money to have goats testicles implanted in their ball sacks and near their ovaries. Into the 1920s and Brinkley was beginning to make some serious money and he became quite famous. He worked with some many Hollywood stars that there was a phrase in the silent film industry called ‘goat gland’; which was where dialogue was put over a silent film.
Anyway, I’m going on for too long. Brinkley was eventually discredited and died penniless mid lawsuit in 1942.