4 Of The Most Evil Science Experiments Ever Performed

Published August 20, 2014
Updated August 25, 2017
Published August 20, 2014
Updated August 25, 2017

The U.S. Tests A Chemical Weapon On Its Own People–And The Perpetrator Walks Free

Evil Science Kligman

Albert Kligman. You might recognize him as the man whose product, Retin-A, helped get rid of your acne, but to some prisoners, he was the man who made their lives a living hell. Image Source: Tevi

In 1951, American dermatologist Albert Kligman reported to work at Pennsylvania’s Holmesburg prison to study, of all things, ringworm.

Realizing the potential of the inmate population, and apparently forgetting literally everything he ever learned about medical ethics, Kligman eventually expanded his “research” into live drug trials, pathogen testing, and exposing inmates to dioxin, the active ingredient in Agent Orange, the chief chemical used in the United States’ herbicidal warfare program in Vietnam.

Over the course of 23 years, Kligman obtained grants from the US Army, Dow Chemical, and Johnson & Johnson, as well as academic support from the University of Pennsylvania, to research the effects of some of the most dangerous chemicals in his arsenal on people confined under terms that render the idea of “informed consent” a grisly joke.

By the time he finished, hundreds of patients had been knowingly infected with herpes, staph, athlete’s foot, and dioxin.

Agent Orange Birth Defects

A Vietnamese child who has suffered birth defects likely caused by dioxin/Agent Orange. Image Source: Business Insider

As with the other entries on this list, Kligman’s results were of limited value. Those who reviewed his work found it to be so sloppy and riddled with conflicting data that it was excluded from consideration by the Food and Drug Administration.

Essentially, Kligman spent over two decades torturing prison inmates, and his results weren’t good enough for government work. Kligman managed to evade punishment and live to just short of 94. To the end of his life, he swore he did nothing wrong.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.