Historical journeys can be a slog. What can I say? It’s all those damn facts. Even human medical experimentation in America can read a little bit yawny when it’s dragged out in paragraph form. Fortunately, I have no integrity and am, therefore, not a
bove the use of cheap structural gimmicks. It’s like in that song from Mary Poppins about the sugar and the medicine, except the sugar is the structural gimmick and the medicine is the cough syrup that I’m drinking right now. Chim-chim-cheroo.
Time Period: 1940s
Problem: All the darn malaria that’s plaguing U.S. Naval troops in the Pacific theater.
Solution: Bring a bunch of malarial mosquitoes and experimental malaria vaccines to Statesville Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois, infect a whole mess of volunteers and then test the vaccines on them.
Negative results: One of the 441 volunteers died from a heart attack (the scientists pinky swore that it totally had, like, nothing to do with malaria); during the Nuremberg trial, sucky Nazis attempted to use the Statesville experiment to defend their malarial infection experiments on… you know… not volunteers… at Dachau.
Positive results: Hearty support from the American public enabled the testing to continue for 29 years. The experiments were instrumental in pioneering modern malaria treatments.
Time Period: 1952
Problem: “Hey, does anyone understand cancer? I just… I don’t get it.” – Chester M. Southam, Sloan-Kettering Institute
Solution: “Okay, okay… I’m gonna go down to Ohio State Prison with a bunch of needles filled with live cancer cells, inject the cells into hundreds of unknowing inmates and then… see what happens, I guess?”
Results: “Nope. I still don’t get it…”
Time Period: 1955
Problem: Is America prepared to deal with biological warfare? The CIA does that hand-tilting “sorta” gesture that people do when they mean “no.”
Solution: U.S. boats off the coast of Tampa Bay, Florida, fire a chunky dose of whooping cough toward the city.
Negative results: Tampa suffers a massive whooping cough epidemic that infects 1,080 citizens, resulting in 12 deaths.
Positive results: The government’s worst fear – a “baker’s dozen” casualty scenario – proves unfounded
Time period: 1956-1957
Problem: Could terrorists attack the country using a swarm of mosquitoes infected with either yellow or Dengue fever?
Solution: Release millions of uninfected mosquitoes in Savannah, Georgia, and Avon Park, Florida, and monitor the insects’ impact and range.
Negative results: Once released, the “uninfected” mosquitoes naturally contracted all sorts of contagious horribleness, leading to outbreaks of typhoid, encephalitis and other miscellaneous fevers. As the diseases spread, Army workers disguised as public health officials tested and photographed suffering citizens. Scientists later admitted that the experiment was a “terrible idea.”
Positive results: Some of the Army guys were allowed to keep their victim cameras.
Time period: 1962
Problem: “Hey, does anyone understand cancer yet? Man, this is frustrating!” – Chester M. Southam, Sloan-Kettering Institute
Solution: “Okay, okay… I’m gonna go down to Brooklyn’s Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital with a bunch of needles filled with live cancer cells, inject the cells into 22 unknowing patients and then… see what happens, I guess?”
Positive result: Southam’s medical license was suspended for a year after the hospital tried to cover up the doctor’s experiment.
Negative result: Two years later, Southam was elected head of the National Cancer Society.
Friday: Matt retreats back to conventional prose when confronted with government-run chemical experiments and psychological torture