Medical mavericks

March 11, 2008 § 4 Comments

Medical mavericks

Last night I watched the first episode of the BBC miniseries “Medical mavericks” (photo credit). It tells the story of important breakthroughs in medical history by focusing on doctors and scientists that used themselves as guinea pigs.

From the series website:

Animals and lab tests can only take you so far – in the end you have to experiment on people. But who would want to go first? Award-winning journalist and former doctor Michael Mosley exposes the curious, gruesome and sometimes fatal ways in which scientists have transformed medical knowledge by using themselves as guinea pigs.

The first episode was about anesthesia (well, “anaesthesia” actually. It’s BBC). William T.G. Morton, often considered as the discoverer of ether as an anesthetic, initially experimented with the liquid on himself. James Young Simpson discovered chloroform could be used for the same purpose after inhaling a lot of possible candidate substances.

The series manage to present this fascinating history in an engaging and entertaining way. The presenter inhaling nitrous oxide and giving himself electric shocks while laughing was undoubtedly one of the highlights.

The three other episode in the series are called “Discovering vaccines”, “Diet and Disease” and “Beating Infection”. Looking forward to them all. If you happen to be in Norway, it runs on Mondays on NRK2.

Clips from all episodes can be watched here. Check out an interesting article by Michael Mosley called “Human guinea pigs advance medicine”.

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