A Strange Experiment: Dr. William Beaumont and the 'Guinea Pig' of Mackinac Island.
In 1822 on Mackinac Island, French Canadian Fur Trader Alexis St Martin was shot in the side at a distance of less than one meter. The experiments following his miraculous survival just may be the weirdest piece of history ever seen in the Straits of Mackinac.
The bullet wound left a hole in St Martin’s side giving Dr. William Beaumont the first ever access to a living human stomach. The doctor would tie pieces of food to a silk string and dangle them down into St Martin’s stomach in order to better understand the process of digestion. But the experiments didn’t stop there. Nearly 250 experiments were performed over nearly a decade.
Dr. Beaumont’s book on the experiments first published in 1833 entitled “Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion” paved the way for our understanding of the human gastric system and earned Beaumont the title of Father of Gastric Physiology.
St Martin lived his entire life with a bullet hole his side, which became a gastric fistula, or “passageway” that never closed. He was buried in a secret location eight feet below ground with two feet of rocks on his coffin to deter grave robbers from stealing his corpse or his stomach, which was highly sought after when he died.
Come hear the true story of Dr. William Beaumont and Alexis St Martin in this extra strange episode of the History Cache Podcast.
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