Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Goat Gland Doctor and Mikhail Bulgakov

The Goat Gland Doctor: The Story of John R. Brinkley.
Brinkley, therefore, had all he needed to capitalize on the farmer's idea of goat-gland transplants: he was unethical, he had a wobbly knowledge of medicine, and he had witnessed the rambunctious behavior of goats. And he possessed one more thing: knowledge of experiments carried out in Europe beginning in the late 1800s.
These experiments must be the inspiration for the Mikhail Bulgakov novel, Heart of a Dog! I really need to reread that book. <3 And apparently there's a film of it, which I also need to see!
Brinkley went to work, implanting a bit of goat gonad in Stittsworth's testicle. Within weeks the farmer was back to thank the doctor for giving him back his libido. And when his wife gave birth to a boy, whom they appropriately named Billy, Stittsworth spread the word about Brinkley.
Haha. This guy is a little bit Dr. Nick, a little bit Dr. Moreau, and a little bit those-dudes-who-duped-the-emperor in The Emperor's New Clothes:
Brinkley was charging $750 per transplant, and he couldn't keep up with the demand. All men needed the Brinkley operation, he declared, but the procedure was most suited to the intelligent and least suited to the "stupid type." This, of course, ensured that few of his patients would admit that they had not benefited from the operation.
There were a few problems. Like when Brinkley decided to use angora goat testicles instead of those from the more common Toggenberg goat. Recipients of the angora testicles were decidedly unhappy—Brinkley himself noted that they reeked like a steamy barn in midsummer.
Presumably Toggenberg goat testicles don't make you reek?
The "doctor" then decided that the only way to get his license back was to become governor. So in 1930 he organized a massive write-in campaign, and he almost won.


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