Serge Voronoff  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Serge Abrahamovitch Voronoff (c. July 10, 1866September 3, 1951) was a French surgeon of Russian extraction who gained fame for his technique of grafting monkey testicle tissue on to the testicles of men while working in France in the 1920s and 1930s. The technique brought him a great deal of money, although he was already independently wealthy. As his work fell out of favor, he went from being highly respected to a subject of ridicule. Other doctors, and the public at large, quickly distanced themselves from Voronoff, pretending they had never had any interest in the grafting techniques. By the time of his death in 1951 at the age 85, few newspapers noted his passing and those that did acted as if Voronoff had always been ridiculed for his beliefs. In 1999, some speculated that the AIDS virus discovered in the 1980s entered the human population through Voronoff's transfer of monkey parts into humans in the 1920s. Presently, however, his efforts and reputation have been somewhat rehabilitated.

Popular culture

As Voronoff's work became famous in the 1920s, it began to be featured in popular culture. The song "Monkey-Doodle-Doo", written by Irving Berlin and featured in the Marx Brothers film The Coconuts, contains the line: "If you're too old for dancing/Get yourself a monkey gland". Strange-looking ashtrays depicting monkeys protecting their private parts, with the phrase (translated from French) "No, Voronoff, you won't get me!" painted on them began showing up in Parisian homes. At about this same time, a new cocktail containing gin, orange juice, grenadine and absinthe was named The Monkey Gland.

Voronoff was the prototype for Professor Preobrazhensky in Mikhail Bulgakov's novel Heart of a Dog, published in 1925. In the novel, Preobrazhensky implants human testicles and pituitary gland into a stray dog named Sharik. Sharik then proceeds to become more and more human as time passes, picks himself the name Polygraph Polygraphovich Sharikov, makes himself a career with the "department of the clearing of the city from cats and other vile animals", and turns the life in the professor's house into a nightmare until the professor reverses the procedure.

The Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Creeping Man seems to have been inspired by Voronoff's work. Written in 1923 but set in 1903, it is about a distinguished, elderly, Cambridge Professor who experiences bizarre side-effects after secretly taking a drug, derived in an unspecified manner from monkeys, in order to produce rejuvenation.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Serge Voronoff" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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