Thursday, July 01, 2010 7/1/10 - cures for impotence

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In today's encore excerpt - from the annals of science: in 1917, a cure was found for impotence and related maladies that involved transplanting the glands and testicles of goats, monkeys and humans into the patient. Though ultimately found to be fraudulent, it became a craze that swept across the U.S. and captured as patients a wide swath of Americans from movie stars to moguls:

"Ever since man began to walk upright, he had been obsessed when his penis would not behave likewise and searched for ways to fix the problem. The world's earliest known medical document, the so-called Edwin Smith Papyrus of Egypt dating from 1600 B.C., presents a strikingly sophisticated view of trauma surgery - except on the back, where one finds 'Incantation for Transforming an Old Man into a Youth of Twenty.' In ancient Greece an herb called satyrion, recommended by the philosopher Theophrastus in 320 B.C., was swiftly harvested to extinction. During the ensuing centuries cloves, ginger, and massaging one's genitals in ass's milk all had their vogue. In England around the year 1000, men were devouring 'love bread' (naked maidens romped in wheat, which was then harvested counterclockwise). The Middle Ages favored lubrication of the afflicted member with melted fat from camel humps. ...

"[For doctors experimenting in the 1910s], finding a human donor [of testicles for transplants to test a 'cure' for impotence] was actually easy, thanks to the help of Dr. Leo Stanley, chief surgeon at San Quentin prison in California. Three or four hangings a year offered the perfect chance to relieve relatively young men of their testicles without an argument. ... Testicles of these deceased felons were inserted into other prisoners, usually geezers with no chance of parole. According to Dr. Stanley's reports, most showed improvement. Seventy-two-year-old Mark Williams, half-senile at the implant, perked up within five days. ... Scientific journals, including JAMA, gave this work wide and respectful coverage. Dr. Stanley himself ... injected or implanted testicular material, both animal and human, into 643 inmates and 13 physicians. ...

"At the Park Avenue Hospital in Chicago in 1920, Dr. John Brinkley performed thirty-four goat-gland transplants, pausing often to chat with reporters. ... He had to say that his own technique, in which the goat gland 'humanized' in the scrotal sac, was 'far in advance of the Old World experts.' ... Dr. Stanley was now averaging fifty operations a month at $750 apiece, for a take of almost half a million dollars a year (in 1920s currency). Most patients walked in and lay down without even asking how the thing worked. 'I suppose a goat gland is a good deal like a potato,' said seventy-seven-year-old A.B. Pierce of Nebraska. 'You can cut a potato all in pieces and plant it and every eye will grow.' "

Author: Pope Brock
Title: Charlatan
Publisher: Crown
Date: Copyright 2008 by Pope Brock
Pages: 32-53

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Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came. 

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