A stiff moment in scientific history

Photo by Flickr user NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Click for source.In 1983 psychiatrist Giles Brindley demonstrated the first drug treatment for erectile dysfunction in a rather unique way. He took the drug and demonstrated his stiff wicket to the audience mid-way through his talk.

Scientific journal BJU International has a pant-wettingly hilarious account of the events of that day which made both scientific and presentation history.

Professor Brindley, still in his blue track suit, was introduced as a psychiatrist with broad research interests. He began his lecture without aplomb. He had, he indicated, hypothesized that injection with vasoactive agents into the corporal bodies of the penis might induce an erection. Lacking ready access to an appropriate animal model, and cognisant of the long medical tradition of using oneself as a research subject, he began a series of experiments on self-injection of his penis with various vasoactive agents, including papaverine, phentolamine, and several others. (While this is now commonplace, at the time it was unheard of). His slide-based talk consisted of a large series of photographs of his penis in various states of tumescence after injection with a variety of doses of phentolamine and papaverine. After viewing about 30 of these slides, there was no doubt in my mind that, at least in Professor Brindley’s case, the therapy was effective. Of course, one could not exclude the possibility that erotic stimulation had played a role in acquiring these erections, and Professor Brindley acknowledged this.

The Professor wanted to make his case in the most convincing style possible. He indicated that, in his view, no normal person would find the experience of giving a lecture to a large audience to be erotically stimulating or erection-inducing. He had, he said, therefore injected himself with papaverine in his hotel room before coming to give the lecture, and deliberately wore loose clothes (hence the track-suit) to make it possible to exhibit the results. He stepped around the podium, and pulled his loose pants tight up around his genitalia in an attempt to demonstrate his erection.

At this point, I, and I believe everyone else in the room, was agog. I could scarcely believe what was occurring on stage. But Prof. Brindley was not satisfied. He looked down sceptically at his pants and shook his head with dismay. ‘Unfortunately, this doesn’t display the results clearly enough’. He then summarily dropped his trousers and shorts, revealing a long, thin, clearly erect penis. There was not a sound in the room. Everyone had stopped breathing.

But the mere public showing of his erection from the podium was not sufficient. He paused, and seemed to ponder his next move. The sense of drama in the room was palpable. He then said, with gravity, ‘I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence’. With his pants at his knees, he waddled down the stairs, approaching (to their horror) the urologists and their partners in the front row. As he approached them, erection waggling before him, four or five of the women in the front rows threw their arms up in the air, seemingly in unison, and screamed loudly. The scientific merits of the presentation had been overwhelmed, for them, by the novel and unusual mode of demonstrating the results.

The screams seemed to shock Professor Brindley, who rapidly pulled up his trousers, returned to the podium, and terminated the lecture. The crowd dispersed in a state of flabbergasted disarray. I imagine that the urologists who attended with their partners had a lot of explaining to do. The rest is history. Prof Brindley’s single-author paper reporting these results was published about 6 months later.

 

Link to full account of that fateful day (via @DrPetra)

4 Comments

  1. Posted April 14, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Alexander Riccio and commented:
    This is a great article about a…..uhh……let’s just say it was possibly the most awkward scientific presentation ever. Kinda NSFW.

  2. Ron Mellett
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Obviously the professor made a big impression

  3. Posted April 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Go Yeast and commented:
    Some people are fearless despite being scientists.

  4. schoolpsychscholar
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Anthony Weiner’s dream job.


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