When Americans used to get goat testicle transplants to cure impotence

Every now and then I read something that reminds me that con artistry is truly an art in its own way. Such as the case with this recent MEL Magazine article about John R. Brinkley, an early 20th century huckster who — among other wicked scams — went around performing goat testicle implants in men who were desperate to cure their impotence:

This endeavor began in 1917, when Brinkley became the town doctor in Milford, Kansas. A 46-year-old farmer came to him complaining of having "no pep," lamenting offhand that he didn't have "billy-goat nuts." This, according to a biography Brinkley himself commissioned at the height of his fame, led to a serendipitous moment, a realization he was "gifted beyond the run of doctors." 

Brinkley began charging $750 for a goat-gland transplant, equivalent to around $16,500 today. Patients mortgaged their homes, begged, borrowed and stole. "A man is as old as his glands," Brinkley would proclaim, while warning his patients that the procedure only had a 95-percent success rate, and worked less well on stupid people.

Despite the science behind his work being entirely unsound — and frequently being drunk when he operated — he had a great flair for marketing and became wealthy and famous.

If you want to know more about the ill-fated history of goat ball transplants, well, you know where to click. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot more to the story.

The Doctor Who Convinced America That A Goat-Ball Transplant Could Cure Impotence [Mike Rampton / MEL Magazine]

Image: Public Domain via Pixabay