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Real-Life Mad Scientists: Brukhonenko & Demikhov

The Russians had their fair share of mad scientists with two that stood out in the field of medical transplants. One worked with the severed heads of man’s best friend, while the other transplanted different body parts and organs onto other creatures. In this article, you will learn some of the disturbing demonstrations these Russian mad scientists conducted.

Sergei Brukhonenko

Born in 1890, Sergei Brukhonenko was a Russian scientist that came from the days of the Stalinist era. While he made contributions to the science world that dealt with advancements in open heart surgery, he also had an infamous way of proving his theories. While trying to prove his theories on how to keep a body or some part of the body alive, Brukhonenko held exhibitions for the public to see his work. However, these demonstrations often led onlookers sickened to their stomach and questioning the ethical line that the scientist was crossing.

One of the most infamous experiments that he conducted around 1928 involved the severed heads of dogs. He actually got a severed head to eat a piece of cheese during one demonstration. The chewed cheese even exited through the truncated esophagus at the other end of the head. To further prove that the head was ‘alive’ – Brukhonenko would tap a hammer on the table, where the head would flinch. He shined a light into the eyes of the head and it blinked. He also toyed with dog head transplants and even brought executed dogs back to life.

When Brukhonenko began to experiment on humans, human bodies and other animals, his scientific demonstrations were looked upon as needing a bit of regulation. However, thanks to Brukhonenko, the primitive heart-lung machine known as the “autojektor” became a reality. With this same machine, he was able to keep the heads of severed dogs alive.
Vladimir Demikhov

Born in 1916, Vladimir Demikhov came from the days of Stalin and was also considered an organ transplant pioneer. What Demikhov did to earn his claim to fame was to transplant whole portions of live puppies onto the bodies of adult dogs. He also dabbled in transplanting various organs.

After Demikhov invited journalists to see his animal creatures, a reporter from the Daily Mail wrote: “Blinking unhappily in the daylight as Demikhov paraded it on its lead, this unfortunate beast had been created by grafting the head and upper body of a small puppy on the head and body of a fully-grown mastiff, to form one grotesque creature with two heads. The visitors watched in horror and fascination as both of the beast’s mouths lapped greedily at a bowl of milk proffered by Demikhov’s assistants.”

While Demikhov conducted dog head transplants during the 1950s, he inspired others to follow in his footsteps. For instance, Dr. Robert White would choose monkeys for his head transplant experiments after gaining inspiration from Demikhov. And Demikov was not the first to attempt head transplants. This feat was accomplished by a Professor A. G. Konevskiy, who worked at Volgograd State Medical University in the Operative Surgery and Topographical Anatomy Department. However, this doctor did not plan his head transplant. He was supposed to experiment with heart transplants but the puppy was a victim of an auto accident and proceeded to attempt a head transplant so that he did not waste a sterilized operating table.