Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold "Test Pilots" of Science & Medicine



Dendy, Leslie A., and Mel Boring. Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold "Test Pilots" of Science & Medicine. 2005. 224pp. Lexile 1100.

Ethical considerations have increasingly prevented scientists from conducting dangerous experiments on other people.  Some have solved this problem over the years by using themselves as guinea pigs.  Here are ten scientists in different eras and different areas of research who did just that, hoping to learn more and, in some cases, to end deadly diseases.  Some died in the process.  They experimented with infectious diseases, extreme heat, swallowing food in wooden capsules, radiation (in the case of Marie Curie), and more. One of the most dramatic set of experiments, illustrated in a series of photographs, came from Air Force flight surgeon and scientist, John Paul Stapp, who researched deceleration by accelerating up to 180 mph on a sled on steel rails, then stopping with stunning force.  He broke an arm, ribs, and his back in the process of improving aviation and car safety.  The ten chapters make science exciting while raising thought-provoking questions about research on humans.

Web tie-in:  As of fall 2012, Youtube features a video originally aired on the History Channel titled "Colonel Stapp Takes a Lot of G's," with remarkable footage of John Paul Stapp's experiments with deceleration in which he risked his own life many times.  Be warned, some students will not want to watch the examination of him after one of his runs (in the last 25 seconds of the video), which shows his eyeballs bleeding.