Self-Experimentation – Testing Chemical Weapons on Yourself

This article from BBC News describes how scientist John Haldane was so committed to the war effort during World War One that he tested chemical weapons on himself in order to develop the first gas masks.

Truly dedicated, Haldane thought it was best to test the gases on humans, since they were the only subjects who could report what was happening, and relied on his young daughter to break in and revive him should the worst happen.

During World War One, the German army used various gases. including chlorine, to attack troops on the front line, and without gas masks, soldiers could do very little to protect themselves from the damage it caused. With the matter becoming increasingly urgent, Haldane didn’t hesitate to use himself as a subject so that a solution could be developed quickly. In doing so, he was able to provide soldiers with box respirators, which were used throughout the war.

Nowadays, the idea of experimenting on yourself seems absurd, but this is just one of many scientific developments which utilised such extreme measures. In our age of very strict health and safety procedures, it’s awe-inspiring that these great figures in the history of science and technology were so dedicated to their cause that they would use themselves as guinea pigs. Although it isn’t recommended, we have to be grateful for it!