Given all the complaining people do about animal experimentation these days, its easy to forget that up until fairly recently, scientific experimentation on humans was considered perfectly acceptable. While most of our scientific forefathers stuck to experimenting on random poor people like any respectable person would, others took it a step further and said, "Well, this baby in my house is already crying a lot anyway ..."
In 1933, psychologist Clarence Leuba wanted to figure out whether laughing when being tickled is an instinct were born with or if we just learn it from watching other people do it. It seems like a fine plan, but thats when he took it to crazytown. See, he figured that the best opportunity to crack the tickle matrix was to experiment on his infant son. While wearing a terrifying mask.
In the interests of science, Leuba first banned all tickling in his household, allowing it only during special, experimental tickling periods. Whats more, he explicitly banned his wife from ever laughing while she touched the kid so that he would never hear the sound of laughter and accidentally associate it with tickling. Because, you know, this question is totally important enough to sacrifice someones childhood to answer it.
But the most terrifying aspect of this experiment was the tickling itself. To make really sure his child would not be influenced by his facial expressions, Leuba wore a large, blank cardboard mask with only narrow eye slits, and in an effort to win the award for "creepiest child-parent interaction that doesnt involve any form of taxidermy," Leuba carefully conducted "controlled tickling" on various predetermined areas of his childs body, starting with the armpit.
Shockingly, the kid did start laughing (we sure as hell wouldnt have), but according to Leuba, the validity of the test had been ruined by his wife, who confessed one day that she had laughed while bouncing her son on her knee and saying "Bouncy, bouncy!" Exactly how Leuba reacted to this confession is not known, but we assume it had something to do with stabbing her while wearing a clown costume.
Nevertheless, Leuba realized how insane this whole thing was, and they all had a good laugh about it afterward. No, wait. Actually, Leuba just started the experiment over again with his second child.
In the late 18th century, English physician Edward Jenner was trying to prove his new insane theory: that deliberately infecting people with a non-serious bovine disease called cowpox would give them immunity to smallpox, a disfiguring and potentially fatal disease that over the centuries has been known as "the red death," "the speckled monster" and "proof that nature hates us all."
We now know that Jenner was right -- he called it vaccination -- but at the time, his theory was based on the observation that people who worked with cows a lot didnt tend to get smallpox as often.
"So while we did violate the company dating policy, some good did come out of it."
Understandably, the scientific establishment wasnt convinced by this not-quite-ironclad research, so Jenner decided to do the obvious thing and deliberately infect his infant son, Edward Jr., with both diseases. The touching moment in science history when Jenner did this has for some reason been repeatedly captured in sculpture:
Inoculating people in those days wasnt as simple as a prick in the arm. What Jenner actually had to do was cut his sons arm open, take a pile of infected pus and shove it right in there, like stuffing the worlds most horrifying Thanksgiving turkey.
Jenner didnt just cram diseased pus into his son, but did the same to several young boys in the neighborhood, just to be sure. Of course, if hed been wrong and all those boys had contracted smallpox, Jenner probably wouldnt be known as a hero to the medical establishment, but would instead have some notorious serial killer name like "The London Pus Monster."
The Royal Society apparently weighed out "This guy is cutting people open and putting in cow sickness" and "Hey, he tried it on his own son" and came down on Jenners side. Although vaccination took a while to catch on fully, it eventually got big, to the extent that smallpox is now a hipster disease that no ones really heard of.
In 1964, an Australian marine toxicologist named Jack Barnes was investigating the jellyfish he thought might be responsible for producing "Irukandji syndrome," a collection of mysterious, hospitalizing symptoms that was popping up in some Australian swimmers.
Barnes eventually found a sample of the tiny jellyfish that he suspected might be to blame on a Queensland beach, but he needed to test that it was actually poisonous and not some pansy nonpoisonous jellyfish that wasnt worthy of its Australian status. So he tested the jellyfishs sting on three people: himself, a local lifeguard ... and his 9-year-old son, Nick.
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