Warning: This article contains some graphic images
Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein is often seen as a commentary on modern fears that humanity’s pursuit for scientific knowledge and truth can often cross "sacred" moral and ethical boundaries. As is often the case with cautionary tales, it can sometimes feel like they’re taken as a guidebook.
In a Halloween homage, here’s a roundup of experiments that have toyed with life and death – experiments that would make Dr Frankstein himself shudder. Although grossly unethical by today’s standards, many of these experiments have braved new waters in the field of biomedical research. In other cases, they’re just plain crazy.
Turning A Cat Into A Telephone
In 1929, a time long before PETA, Ernest Glen Wever and Charles W Bray managed to turn a live cat into a walkie-talkie.
After removing a chunk of the cat’s skull, they attached one electrode to the animal’s right auditory nerve and another to its body. These were attached by an 18-meter (60-foot) cable to an amplifier in a soundproof room. When one of the researchers talked into the ear of the cat, the sound could be heard in the receiver.
The study reportedly read: “Speech was transmitted with great fidelity. Simple commands, counting and the like were easily received. Indeed, under good condition the system was employed as a means of communication between operating and sound-proof [sic].”
They then killed the cat and tried it again, and that’s how science learned dead cats can’t be telephones but alive ones can.