Vasectomania, and other cures for sloth

October 15, 2009 § Leave a comment

A rebellious monkey refuses to give up its glands

A rebellious monkey refuses to give up its glands

Cabinet magazine issue 29 has a fascinating article on the use of monkey glands by Christopher Turner.

The physiologist Serge Voronoff, a Russian working in Paris, was one of the most infamous of the gland doctors. He thought that the lazy, mentally disabled, run-down, and aged could be revitalized by testicular transplants. Many wealthy men underwent the costly surgery; Voronoff transplanted the testes of executed criminals into millionaires. Legal contracts were drawn up with prospective donors, but apparently willing individuals were in such short supply that what one scientist called a “despicable trade in organs” began to develop. According to one newspaper, men were even being mugged for their testicles, “knocked unconscious and then robbed of the long-sought-for organs.”

Voronoff solved this crisis by slicing and grafting the testicles of monkeys onto those of the men who sought his treatment. In his book, Rejuvenation by Grafting (1925), Voronoff promised the patients who acquired his monkey glands that they’d be able to work longer, and that they would be blessed with improved memories, eyesight, and sex drives. He set up a special breeding center on the Italian Riviera for chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans that was run by a former circus-animal keeper.

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