Published 2021-11-24
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A Man Played God. Killed And Brought Dogs Back To Life. Humans Were Next!

Tales of Mad Scientists have been in existence for centuries now. In most of them, they had been criticized for being wacky, inhumane, and even downright psychotic, some had also been celebrated for making breakthroughs within various scientific fields. While most of those stories have origins from millennia ago there is one such story with a modern twist that took place in the 1930s in Berkley, California. There, almost like Dr. Frankensteins from Mary Shelly’s classic novel, American Dr. Robert Cornish too had tried to bring the dead back to life but he didn’t work with humans...but dogs. Was his experiment successful? How did the public react? And did anyone else try a similar thing? Read on to find out!

Who Was Robert Cornish

The man in question was a child prodigy. By 18 he had already graduated from the University of California and had gained a doctorate at the age of 22. Despite being described as a handsome, young man, he soon became known for his eccentricity, especially after he came up with a concept for an invention which was a pair of spectacles that would allow the user to read a newspaper underwater. However, as he worked at the Department of Experimental Biology at Berkley, the man had gained notoriety for something that was much darker in nature than a way to read underwater. Want to know more about his experiments? Read on until the end.

The Start Of Cornish’s Experiment

Despite making a name for himself with his inventions, Cornish was interested in research and worked on many different projects however, none had sparked his interest as much as his idea to restore life to the dead. And so, by 1933, he had begun working on his idea and had developed an unusual method of reanimation. At first, he attempted his experiments on several dead bodies but they were without success and so he came to the conclusion that too much time had passed since they died in order for it to work. And so, he decided to perfect his method but this time working with freshly euthanized dogs.

The Dogs Named Lazarus

In May 1934, in preparation for his experiment, that was taking place at Berkley, Cornish got five fox terriers. Each of the dogs was called Lazarus after the biblical figure who was raised from the dead by Jesus. In the press, however, the dogs were known as Lazarus I, II, III, IV, and V to avoid confusion. To ensure that the dogs had passed away shortly before the start of the experiment, the doctor and his staff, would euthanize each dog using a nitrogen gas mixture, before strapping them into a seesaw-like contraption once they were declared clinically dead. Dr. Cornish would then inject a solution that contained adrenaline into the corpse’s thigh, and puff bursts of oxygen into their mouths via a rubber tube. At the same time, an assistant rocked the contraption back and forth to slowly draw the solution up and down the body. Here it is worth reminding you that this was in the 1930s when CPR and other techniques to revive someone were in their infancy and modern CPR wasn’t invented until 1960 and there were some who believed his experiments had helped with modern CPR however that was never confirmed. But what results did he receive? Find out on the next page.

Who Was Robert Cornish

Lazarus II & III - And The Results Of The Experiment

It has been said the first three dogs had come to life but only briefly before slumping into a coma. While not much is known about Lazarus I, at the time of the experiment, Time magazine got to witness what Cornish was doing. In their article, they noted that six minutes after Lazarus II had died, the doctor administered the solution into the dog’s thigh after which his assistants began to work on administering the oxygen and working on the seesaw-like contraption. After a while, the dog gasped, his leg twitched, and his heat began to beat weekly at first, then really fast before continuing to beat normally. And so, Lazarus II was alive. According to the article, for eight hours and 13 minutes, the dog lay in an uneasy coma, whining, panting, barking, as if experiencing nightmares. In order to speed up its recovery, Dr. Cornish injected some glucose solution into the dog’s veins. Shortly after, a blood clot had formed and he died for good. After that, he selected another dog, Lazarus III, and revived it in the same way, slightly changing the formula. Once again, the dog was revived but it died a final death after five hours.

Lazarus IV & V - More Promising Results

But in contrast to the previous three attempts, the ones conducted on Lazarus IV and V were allegedly much more successful. Given that these two experiments took place sometime after the aforementioned ones, the journalists from the Time were not there to report on it. However, in January 1935, Modern Mechanix had reported on the further two experiments. As per the text, Lazarus IV was blind, as well as had some brain damage, and could not stand alone but has learned to crawl, bark, sit up, on its haunches, and consume nearly a pound of meat a day. The reports also stated that Lazarus V returned to nearer normalcy in four days than the other in thirteen days. Here it is worth pointing out that this is all based on the words of Dr. Cornish alone and have not been confirmed by anyone else but besides that, the man considered his experiment a success. It is unknown what had happened to the two dogs after the experiment or how long they lived. But just how did the public react to his work? Read on to find out.

Fired From The Lab

When speaking of his experiments, Cornish had admitted that the dogs were more dead than alive, and even debated about using swine instead of dogs, explaining that they resemble humans more than dogs. As you can imagine, nowadays such an experiment would be met with criticism from Animal welfare groups and people in general, not to mention the ethics of bringing someone back from the dead coming into play. But even back then, the doctor was heavily criticized for his work on the dogs, once the media had begun reporting on his work on Lazarus III. Once protests about the canine killings had reached the ears of those behind decision-making at Berkley, the doctor was fired from the lab. Though he continued his work and those experiments conducted on Lazarus’ IV & V were done so at his parent’s home.

Trying To Clear His Name

After he completed his experiments, the name of the man who was once respected and seen as a child prodigy, had been tarnished. And so, when Cornish required funding to further test his experiment, he decided to do something to clear his name and show people that his work was vital. He decided to do this through a movie, titled “Life Returns”. In it, Dr. Cornish had played himself, as did one of the Lazarus dogs, though it was not specified which one. He tried to pull on the audience’s heartstrings, as he portrayed himself as a doctor who had attempted to resurrect his son’s dead dog, as it would be the only way that the son would love him again. Though despite his efforts, the film was far from a success and did not have the desired effect of improving the doctor’s reputation. But not dismayed by this, he continued to continue further proving the results of his experiment though jsut how far did he go? Find out on the next page.

The Start Of Cornish’s Experiment

Human Experiment?

The next part to test out if his experiment was successful was to use a human patient. In order to do so, according to media reports, he searched jails until he found a willing convict. The man in question was Thomas McMonigle, an inmate of San Quentin prison, who was convicted of killing a fourteen-year-old girl. Unfortunately, for Cornish, the government declined the request on compassionate grounds. However, there was another rumor as to why they had declined the offer was because the courts had feared a ‘double jeopardy’ clause. The man was sentenced to death and allegedly officials worried that should he come back to life, he would walk as a free man.


A Similar Experiment Done By Soviets

Similarly to what Cornish tried to accomplish, so did some Soviet scientists. Their attempts were documented in a chilling video from the 1940s which showed a dismembered head of a dog, still living. According to reports, the footage was from the Soviet Film Agency, and it showed Soviet scientists attaching the head of a dog to a machine, which is able to circulate blood around the brain and therefore restore basic motor functions to it. The first part of the film supposedly took place in 1928 also featured scientist Sergei Brukhonenko, who created the apparatus for the artificial circulation of blood which he named ‘autojector’. In the footage, the narrator revealed that the isolated head lived on for hours, and from the video, it was even showing it reacting to stimuli such as sound, light, and touch, at one moment the dog even licking its nose. This video was allegedly released just a year before America entered the Second World War in 1941 and was shown through the courtesy of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship. However, there has been plenty of dispute as to the validity of the video. Some had claimed that the film was a propaganda effort by the Americans and the British to make the Soviets appear formidable to the Nazis they were fighting. Others had claimed the video was fake as according to them, experiments such as that would not have been possible in the 1930s and 1940s.

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