We are all familiar with the adage, “knowledge is power.” But how far are we willing to go to gain that power? Throughout history, many experiments have been conducted in the pursuit of knowledge, often disregarding the ethical implications of their actions. From David Koch’s generous donation to the MIT center researching prostate cancer, to Stanley Milgram’s experiment on the power of authority, today we look at some of the most controversial and influential experiments throughout history.

Explore the stories of Little Albert, Henrietta Lacks and her HeLa cells, as well as the Holmesburg Prison experiments and the Stanford Prison Experiment. We will also be looking at the Stateville Penitentiary research project, the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to modify humans, the Pill trials of 1956, the Willowbrook State School tragedy, J. Marion Sims’ unethical gynecological practices, and Mary Rafferty’s role in Roberts Bartholow’s 1874 experiment. Finally, we will look at Harry Harlow’s groundbreaking research on primates, and the unconsenting psychiatric patients used for a flu vaccine. 

These experiments have had both positive and negative impacts on society, and the ethical considerations are still being discussed today. So, without further ado, let’s delve into these fascinating stories of the pursuit of knowledge.

Unethical trials in Puerto Rico yield successful Pill results.

CRACKED COLONIALISM, DECEIT, AND BIRTH CONTROL: THE PILL TRIALS OF 1956 John Rock and Gregory Pincus conducted human trials for the Pill in Puerto Rico, taking advantage of the island's population density, lack of anti-birth control laws, and existing network of birth control clinics. The trials were successful in demonstrating the Pill's effectiveness, but have since been accused of deceit, colonialism and exploitation of poor women of color.



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