The Laboring Physician: How Brown-Séquard’s Method Emerged in the American Clinic, 1889–1900

Science on Tap
Monday, March 13, 2023
6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. EDT (UTC -4)


Charles Brown-Séquard

Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard.

Wikimedia Commons

The field of endocrinology began in June 1889, when the aging Franco-American physiologist Charles Brown-Séquard injected himself with a concoction of crushed up testicles, semen, and blood that he harvested from guinea pigs and dogs. In this talk, Patrick shows how Brown-Séquard’s experiments caused a global sensation, and started a new field of medical science, especially in America.

This talk comes with a content warning: Patrick weaves a story of grisly and ghastly experiments performed by American doctors, who made foul-smelling and foul-tasting medicine from the offcuts of recently slaughtered animals. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t elegant, but history rarely is. Come along to Patrick’s talk to learn how cowboy doctors got their hands dirty with animal carcasses and made surprisingly effective remedies in the fin-de-siècle.

This is a FREE event, but pre-registration is required.


About the Speaker


Patrick Walsh

Patrick Walsh.

Patrick Walsh is a PhD candidate in the history of science, medicine, and technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently based at the American Philosophical Society as this year’s John C. Slater Predoctoral Fellow in the History of Science. Patrick is in the final stages of completing his dissertation entitled “Glands on the Market: Brown-Séquard, Doctors, and the Making of American Endocrinology, 1889–1919.” It investigates the emergence of the endocrine drug industry in the United States with a special focus on the contributions of American physicians and pharmaceutical giant, Parke, Davis & Company, in shaping the bourgeoning field between 1889 and 1919.

About the Series

Science on Tap is a monthly virtual speaker series that features brief, informal presentations by Philadelphia-based scientists and other experts followed by lively conversation and a Q&A. The goal is to promote enthusiasm for science in a fun, spirited, and accessible way, while also meeting new people. Come join the conversation!