April 14, 2021

Sherlock Holmes and the monkey testicles | Science

Sherlock Holmes and the monkey testicles | Science


Arthur Conan Doyle He practiced medicine as a surgeon on a whaling ship. However, he would not go down in history as a physician, but rather to create the most famous detective in the history of literature.

In 1894, when his character gave him enough fame and wealth to live on the pen, Conan Doyle gave the print a collection of stories entitled The red lamp (Alba), dedicated to the practice of medicine. These are stories where the protagonists are doctors or medical students who are involved in mysterious cases, some of them based on real events.

Because Arthur Conan Doyle cemented his work in true details, even when he wrote the science fiction stories starring Professor Challenger. Without going any further, the titled The lost World It is a clear example of a genre novel where dinosaurs and primitive tribes appear before the eyes of the professor and his expedition partners, Ed Malone and Lord John Roxton, both inspired by the journalist Edmund Dene Morel and the diplomat Roger Casement. In case it has not been said before, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa will recreate the latter's life in his novel The Celtic dream.

Following the real prototype, Arthur Conan Doyle would be inspired by Scottish coroner Joseph Bell when it came to building Sherlock Holmes. Bell's deductive methods would amaze a young Conan Doyle when he was a student of his in medical school. The meticulous observation that leads to the deductive exercise was the main task that Professor Bell transmitted to his students. The sagacity to perceive the causes of a fact originated the sediment that, years later, would be taken to fiction by Conan Doyle as an attribute of a detective who will solve cases following the guidelines of scientific empiricism.

Sherlock Holmes statue in London.
Sherlock Holmes statue in London.

One of the cases that Sherlock Holmes had to resolve was that of The man who crawled. It is the story of an old man who, in love with a woman much younger than him, sought in science the much desired source of eternal youth. The aforementioned old man, not accepting his old age, ended up receiving H. Lowenstein's therapy, a dark man of science, according to Dr. Watson, who gave him serum injections of the black-faced langur monkey, an animal from the Himalayan slopes that crawls and climbs.

The story was published in the early twenties and is based on a fact as real as amazing. We are referring to the transplants of monkey glands that Serge Voronov, a Russian doctor and a French citizen, had been doing. His theories about the source of eternal youth were formulated after attending the effects of castration on Egyptian eunuchs. Eternal youth will no longer be a matter of alchemical elixirs, but of grafts. Serge Voronov felt that the rapid aging of the eunuchs had to do with the lack of testicles. In his work The renewed sources of lifeVoronov tells us how he made "a large number of observations on castrated men".

According to him, from the moment of castration, the activity of all the glands is weakened, since the glands of our body are related to each other. The operation of all the organs suffers when one of them is lacking. According to Voronov, the eunuch leads a "languid life". By not receiving the stimulus determined by the secretion of the genital glands, the cells throughout the body lose all their energy. Therefore "the eunuchs' thinking is lazy and their memory very weak".

For the aforementioned scientist, youth identified with the secretion of the glands. Willing to prove it, he experimented with the transplant of glands from animals to humans. The thyroid and the monkey testicles were the chosen organs. The affair became fashionable and in the Parisian cocktail bars they announced themselves combined with the star ingredient: "monkey glands".

Such was the demand for his therapy that, in the end, Voronov had to set up his own monkey farm in Liguria (Grimaldi). According to him, patients regained agility and sexual vigor after the operation. However, when this happened, it was not by the work and grace of the grafts, but by the so-called placebo effect.

How would Sherlock Holmes in the story that concerns us here: "When the human being tries to overcome nature, there is a risk of falling below it".

The stone ax It's a section where Montero Glez, with a desire for prose, exercises its particular siege on scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.

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