Stellar Moments of Humanity, Part II: Monkey Nuts

Bertram Gayton. The Gland stealers. Jenkuns; London, 1922

Bertram Gayton. The Gland stealers. Jenkuns; London, 1922

In Bertram Gayton’s book The Gland Stealers, published in 1922,  a 95 year old remarkably preserved Grandpa learns from the newspaper about a successful “rejuvenation” procedure — implantation of monkey’s testicular glands into a man.  Grandpa is determined to give it a try. He buys a gorilla and undergoes the transplantation surgery.

The result is short of a miracle. The old man is young again, now looking half his age. Forever an American go-getter, Grandpa is ready to immediately rejuvenate everyone. Selecting 100 candidates for the trial, he establishes a lab in Africa for treating them. All Grandpa needs now is to catch 100 male gorillas by the balls, which isn’t as easy a task even in Africa.  An entrepreneurial Grandpa dons an alluring gorilla suit, gets into the cage and does tricks to lure male gorillas into the cage. Frisky “gorilla” attracted 20 suitors thus far and 20 surgeries are performed… and so on.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Creeping Man, one of Sherlock Holmes short stories, published in 1923, the old professor is engaged to a much younger woman. Shortly after his trip to Prague, professor starts behaves oddly. Apparently, he continued with the rejuvenation treatment he first received in Prague — an extract obtained from  monkey testes. Professor’s energy level was now comparable to that of a young langur, but… well, the guy got more than he bargained for. As Sherlock put it, “When one tries to rise above nature one is liable to fall below it.” 

Dr. Serge Voronoff

Dr. Serge Voronoff

These books — and several others, published around the same time  — were literary responses to the widely publicized  practices of famous Dr. Serge Voronoff (1866-1951), the Russian surgeon, living and working in France.

Dr. Voronoff  have learned the importance of the testicular glands in men’s health through the observation of the eunuchs in Egypt. According to him, the removal of the testes produced physical decline in old age, thus implantation could be an appropriate treatment against aging.

Between 1917 and 1926, Dr. Voronoff tested out his theory on animals, doing more than 500 homo-transplants on rams, goats, and even a bull. He observed that older animals implanted with the testicles of younger ones regained lost vigor.

Serge VoronoffVoronoff’s “rejuvenation” was so popular that by 1930 there were thousands of men around the world who underwent it. And these men were no paupers. Gonads demand was such that Serge Voronoff  built a large park with chimpanzees and baboons to maintain the supply.

During the operation a man and a monkey were places next to one another on a separate  operating tables. The monkey’s glands were removed, cut in pieces of about two centimeters long by a half centimeter wide and a few millimeters deep. The surgeon would then introduce two grafts in the scrotum, which he fixed with stitches taken off after eight days.

 Dr. Voronoff operatingAnatole France, renown French playwright and Nobel Prize laureate, undergone the treatment at age of 61. His health was failing, he felt old, ill and impotent.  Dr. Voronoff used the testes of a huge baboon and made a total of 8 grafts with remarkable results, which manifested itself in 23 days. The operation was claimed to be a resounding success.

Reliable rumors” suggest that Pablo Picasso might also have gone under Dr. Voronoff’s knife.

Voronoff and Monkey


Most of the images in this post came from the site Interstitial Immortality.  As it often happens, I was researching an entirely different subject, which might one day become Stellar Moments of Humanity, Part III.


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