Deep History


Human Experimentation 


Subjecting human beings to unethical scientific experimentation was first practiced in a widespread and systematic manner by the Nazis. Concentration camp inmates had various torture techniques practiced on them, were frozen or starved to death to gather data on the limits of human endurance, and were given countless varieties of drugs, among other unspeakable ordeals. In the last days of the war both American and Russian agencies rushed to capture as many of these Nazi doctors of death as they could, not to punish them for their crimes, but to recruit them for their own studies. An enormous trove of documents chronicle the brutal experiments carried out in America over the next two decades. By the mid-sixties, laws had come into effect significantly limiting the types of research that could be done on people. Documentation of such practices has become much more scare since that time, but the occasional leaked story shows unethical human experimentation projects continue, simply in a more clandestine manner.

1941 - At the University of Michigan, virologists Thomas FrancisJonas Salk, and other researchers deliberately infect patients at several mental institutions with influenza.

1941Researcher William Black deliberately infects a twelve-month-old baby with herpes.

1941The Nazis begin hypothermia experiments on hundreds of prisoners, sometimes freezing them to death. The tests are principally carried out at Dachau and Auschwitz.

1941The Nazis begin sterilization experiments on thousands of prisoners at AuschwitzRavensbruck, and other camps. Radiation, surgery, and drugs are all tested. Ultimately hundreds of thousands will be sterilized by the Nazis.

1942The Chemical Warfare Service begins a series of experiments which expose thousands of U.S. soldiers to mustard gas.

1942The U.S. Navy sponsors an experiment in which 64 prisoners in Massachusetts are injected with cow blood.

1942At the Ravensbruck concentration camp, Nazi doctors carry out bone, muscle, and nerve transplant experiments, operating on victims without the use of anesthesia. Other prisoners are deliberately infected with various bacteria to test the efficacy of sulfonamide, a synthetic antimicrobial agent.

1942At the Dachau concentration camp, Nazi doctors infect around 1,000 prisoners with malaria and test various antimalarial drugs on them. About half of the victims die. Around the same time, 200 other prisoners are placed in a low-pressure chamber to simulate high-altitude conditions for Nazi fighter pilots. 80 of the prisoners die in the experiments and the others are executed shortly afterward.

1943At Auschwitz, the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele performs numerous experiments on nearly 1,500 sets of twins imprisoned there. Only 200 or so individuals survive.

1943At Buchenwald, Nazi doctors test various poisons on prisoners. Those who aren't killed outright by the poisons are executed so that they can be autopsied.

1944At Dachau, Nazi doctor Hans Eppinger forces 90 Roma prisoners to subsist solely on seawater to determine how long it would take them to become gravely ill or die.

1945 - Part of the research for The Manhattan Project includes giving injections of plutonium to three medical patients without their knowledge or consent.

1945General Douglas MacArthur [33] learns of Unit 731, a secret Japanese chemical and biological warfare center which killed tens of thousands in grisly human experiments. Rather than see that they are prosecuted for war crimes, MacArthur offers the units leaders immunity in exchange for their information on biological and chemical warfare.

1945Malaria experiments at the Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois are brought to light. Inmates were exposed to malaria and had several antimalarial drugs tested on them. Nazi doctors at the subsequent Nuremburg Trials point to these experiments in defense of their own human experimentation projects.

1946 - Researchers at the University of Rochester inject Uranium-234 and Uranium-235 into six subjects to test the results.

1946 -  The Ferndale Center in Massachusetts conducts radiation experiments on mentally retarded boys as part of a "Science Club". Founder Walter Ferndale was a leading American proponent of eugenics.

1946 - U.S. researchers led by John Charles Cutler infect over 700 Guatemalan civilians, including children, with syphilis. Cutler will later go on to participate in the Tuskegee syphilis experiments on American civilians.

1947 - The US Navy conducts Project CHATTER to test various interrogation drugs on human and animal subjects.

1948 - Federally funded researchers at John Hopkins Hospital insert radium rods into the noses of 582 school children to test their use as an alternative in a medical procedure called an adenoidectomy.

1948 - In a test called "Green Run," the government secretly releases a cloud of radioactive iodine-131 and xenon-133 over populated areas of the United States. The radioactive fission products were produced at the Hanford Site plutonium facility.

1950 - The Department of Defense and CIA begin Project Bluebird and MKSEARCH. Precursors to MKULTRA, their purpose is to study mind control, behavior modification, and interrogation techniques. A parallel program called MKDELTA is established to carry out similar activities overseas, as well as to conduct biological warfare research and experimentation.

1950 - The Department of Defense and CIA begin Project MKCHICKWIT to identify new drug developments in Europe and Asia and to obtain information and samples.  The program runs in parallel with MKOFTEN which tests the behavioral and toxicological effects of various drugs on animals and humans.

1950 - In order to conduct a simulation of a biological warfare attack, the U.S. Navy uses airplanes to spray large quantities of the bacteria Serratia marcescens over San Francisco, which causes numerous citizens to contract pneumonia-like illnesses, and kills at least one person.

1950 -  Dr. Joseph Stokes of the University of Pennsylvania deliberately infects 200 female prisoners with hepatitis.

1951 - Dr. Albert Kligman, on behalf of Dow Chemicalinjects at least 70 prisoners at the Holmesburg Prison in Pennsylvania with dioxin. Some are given up to 7,500 micrograms of the highly toxic and carcinogenic substance, causing them to develop painful pustules. At some point 9 out of 10 inmates at Holmesburg Prison are used as medical test subjects for one purpose or another.

1951 - Mass hallucinations and hysteria suddenly break out in the small French town of Pont-Saint-Esprit. Between 250 and 500 people are affected and several die. Some believe the incident was caused by ergot or some other poisonous agent in the town's bread. Some evidence also exists that the incident was the result of a covert LSD aerosol experiment named Project Span.

1952 - Sloan-Kettering Institute researcher Chester M. Southam injects live cancer cells into prisoners at the Ohio State Prison. Also at Sloan-Kettering, 300 healthy women are injected with live cancer cells without being told. The doctors know at the time that this might give them cancer.

1952The U.S. Army carries out Operation Dew, releasing an aerosol spray of zinc cadmium sulfide and plant spores off the southeast coast of the United States to advance understanding of potential bioweapons. Operation LAC carries out similar experiments over Minnesota and other parts of the country.

1953 - The CIA begins Project MKULTRA to develop methods of mind control and behavior modification.

1953 - The CIA begins Operation Midnight Climax, using prostitutes to lure clients to safehouses in New York, San Francisco, and Marin. There the clients are surreptitiously dosed with LSD and other drugs and monitored from behind one-way glass.

1954The Army begins Operation Whitecoat, testing various diseases, vaccines, and antibiotics on conscientious objectors. Unlike many other human experimentation projects of the time, the subjects in this case are informed volunteers.

1955 - The CIA conducts a biological warfare experiment in which they release whooping cough bacteria from boats outside of Tampa Bay, Florida, causing a whooping cough epidemic in the city, and killing at least 12 people.

1956 - Researchers at the Walter E. Fernald State School give mentally disabled children radioactive calcium orally and intravenously. They also inject radioactive chemicals into malnourished babies and insert needles into their brains and spines to collect cerebrospinal fluid for analysis.

1960From the early 60's through the late 80's, leading Western pharmaceutical companies including Bayer, Hoechst, Roche, Schering, and Sandoz pay the East German government millions to use over 50,000 patients in state-run hospitals as unwitting guinea pigs. Several patients die as a result of the illicit drug trials.

1962 - 22 elderly patients at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, New York are injected with live cancer cells by Chester M. Southam, who in 1952 had done the same to prisoners at the Ohio State Prison.

1962 - The Hanford Site releases radioactive Iodine-131 into the atmosphere, stationing test subjects along its path to record its effect on them. Volunteers are also recruited to ingest milk contaminated with Iodine-131.

1962The Department of Defense begins Project 112, a 12-year program which tests both simulated and real chemical and biological aerosol weapons over the U.S. and at sites around the world.

1963 - Project SHAD exposes unwitting military personnel to chemical weapons.

1963 - University of Washington researchers irradiate the testes of 232 prisoners to determine the effects of radiation on testicular function. After release, a number of the prisoners have children born with birth defects, although no follow-up study is done, so the exact number remains unknown.

1995Under the auspices of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline tests the toxicity of HIV medications on children in an orphanage in New York.