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ohn R. Brinkley was an American physician who rose to prominence in the early twentieth century for his controversial medical methods and political activism. He was born in Jackson County, North Carolina on July 8, 1885, and died in San Antonio, Texas on May 26, 1942.

Doctor with a bought medical diploma

Brinkley was a self-proclaimed doctor who rose to prominence and money by performing quackery medical treatments such as inserting goat testicles into humans to treat impotence. He also claimed to have discovered a cure for cancer and other deadly diseases.

Dr. John Brinkley (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

What is interesting is that during that period of time, it was very easy to just buy a fake diploma and people would not really question its validity, or do any background checks. That is exactly what Brinkley did. With little medical experience nor a certificate, he started performing various surgical procedures in exchange for money, ending up killing many of his patients.

Brinkley was interested in politics and sought for public office three times in addition to his medical practise. He also owned several radio stations and utilised his media outlets to promote his medical treatments and political ideals.

Brinkley’s fraudulent medical methods were eventually revealed, and he lost his medical license in 1930. He continued to run his radio stations and was politically engaged until his death in 1942. Even PMC PubMed Central published a paper in September 2022 about how fraudulent his medical practices were.

His medical training was limited, his treatments implausible, and yet, during a career that spanned over a quarter century, he became one of the best-known doctors of his era, through his use of technology, salesmanship, and politicking. Brinkley’s success illustrates how eager the public can be for panaceas, regardless of their actual merit, and the difficulty of interdicting the activities of quacks who have captured the public’s imagination.

Philip C. Smith

Treating importance by giving men goat testicles

Besides claiming to do the impossible and almost play God by “curing cancer”, John Brinkley claimed that he could cure male impotence with a surgical technique involving the transplantation of goat testicles into their bodies. He referred to this treatment as “xenotransplantation,” and he claimed that it would restore a man’s virility and sexual prowess.

John Brinkley and his team performing the xenotransplantation surgery (Source: Public Domain)

At his clinic, Brinkley began to perform more surgeries that he claimed would restore male virility and fertility by implanting goat testicular glands in his male patients for $750 ($10,100 in current currencies).

Unfortunately, no scientific proof supports Brinkley’s claims, and the technique is now largely regarded as quackery. In actuality, the technique was risky and potentially lethal, and some of Brinkley’s patients experienced major health complications as a result of it.

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