We know what you’re thinking. Governments experimenting on their own people? That is just science fiction, and could never be real-life. Contrary to what some might want to believe, several governments have done this. In fact, several governments conducted experiments on their own people more than they have on enemies of the state. This goes back to ancient times too when places like Greece and China used to experiment on prisoners. Most of which were citizens of their nation.
It’s a bit odd to consider for many. Why would governments want to do this? Moreover, why would they choose to do extreme testing that could be a huge issue for those in their nation? It would only result in population decline. While many nations have conducted experiments on their own, we will mostly be discussing America. The reason for this is specifically due to the Freedom of Information Act, which allows Americans to know about past government exploits. Let’s discuss these government experiments!
America has a dark past, filled with terrible actions against African-American men and women. However, one issue that might bother many is both their inaction and idiotic reaction to things. This specifically has to do with something known as “Pellagra,” a dietary deficiency. It often affects poverty-stricken areas, but in America, it often affected black populations. This was due to the high level of poverty they experienced in the early 1900s. Dr. Joseph Goldberger, a physician in the U.S. government’s Hygienic Laboratory, discovered how it kept killing off many people across the nation.
However, it specifically seemed to happen a lot in Southern Black people. He was able to connect poverty and lack of proper nutrition to the ordeal. Yet the U.S. chose not to act for more than 20 years, finally deciding to act on the issue in the 1930s. The Public Health Service even admitted they knew of the disease and just chose not to do anything. Many feel the reasoning for this was to test how it affected people, as well as if it could spread into white populations. It finally began to do so, which could be why the nation finally chose to curb the disease.
It might seem odd, but for centuries there have been scientists that decided to conduct tests on prisoners. The idea was that they were considered bad people for breaking the law. There is a lot wrong with that, but several prisons have been involved in these studies. Some act alone or with a university/scientist. Yet they are also areas where governments conducted experiments on their own people quite often.
The University of Chicago teamed with the U.S. Army & State Department to conduct studies at the Statesville Penitentiary during the 1940s. Their major study was on the effectiveness of Malaria-fighting drugs. They forced some prisoners to take part in the study, then reduced sentences for others. In total, 400 prisoners were used. To test the drugs, they first had to give them the Malaria virus! Then they tested several drugs to see which was the most effective. Very few worked at all.
While it is not exactly certain about a specific time period, we do know that North Korea has experimented on its people for many years. We began discussing it far more thanks to three people. Kwon Hyok & Ahn Myung Chul, two former prison guards in NK. As well as a former prisoner there, Lee Soon-ok. Lee wrote about a lot of the things she saw or personally experienced in her book, Eyes of the Tailless Animals, published in 1999.
One experiment she recalled, which she even discussed in front of the U.S. Senate, involved cabbage. North Korea had been developing poisons to use on its enemies for years but wanted to test its poison food. They decided to round up 50 healthy female prisoners and fed them cabbage leaves. Lee recalls many begging not to have to eat it, but ALL had to. Each woman died after 20 minutes of upchucking blood. This is said to have happened at some point between 1986 & 1992.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. began using a biological weapon known as Agent Orange. Yet they worried about the long-term effects. Dr. Albert Kligman was given a $10,000 grant to study numerous chemicals on behalf of Dow Corning, Johnson & Johnson, and of course, the U.S. Army. They wanted to see how human skin reacted to harsh chemicals, which they referred to as “hardening.” They had him test many things, but hidden in the chemicals to test was Dioxin (the main ingredient in Agent Orange). In 1981, six years after the Vietnam War ended, all of his notes were said to have been destroyed.
However, we know from those involved that he tested out chemicals on prisoners from Holmesburg Prison in Pennsylvania. This included Dioxin, which the Army had already been exposing the Vietnamese and its own people to. The government wanted to know what would happen to those they sprayed. To speed up research on this, Kligman injected prisoners with doses 468 times the recommended safe dose of Dioxin for them to take in. The U.S. eventually began sending payouts to American soldiers who were affected by Agent Orange as well as their children.
A group of psychologists ran a secret experiment on twins & triplet children between the 1960s & 1970s. They began separating them at birth from their siblings and having them adopted as single children without their brothers or sisters. The adoptive parents were never told their son or daughter had twin or triplet siblings. The United States National Institute of Mental Health partly funded the experiment, which was only found out due to separated brothers finding each other in 1980.
They randomly managed to do this after being separated for 20 years at that point. The worst part? The main psychologists who led the study, Peter Neubauer & Viola Bernard, did not have any remorse for doing this. They claimed they did something good for these children, as separating them allowed them to develop individual personalities. It is unknown what was supposedly learned from this study. The results are in the Yale University Archives and cannot be unsealed until 2066!
During the Cold War, while some people signed up to be part of the U.S. Armed Forces, others were drafted. Most people knew if you were going to be involved in the military, especially during global conflict, you might have to kill someone. This was a problem for some men who were drafted, specifically the Seventh-Day Adventists. This denomination in Christianity takes the Bible very seriously, especially the part that reads “Thou shalt not kill.” This made using them hard for the military.
As we know, governments conducted experiments on their own people already, so that is an option. Many times, America would do this on those they considered lesser than, but not military right? Wrong! Roughly 2,300 Seventh-Day Adventists decided if they had to be part of the military, they did not want to fight. Thus, they were used as guinea pigs for testing vaccines against biological weapons. In many experiments, those involved recalled being miserable with fevers, chills, and deep aches from diseases. In spite of the high likelihood they would, no one died in the experiments.
The Cold War was not just a problematic time for the United States, as the United Kingdom also made boneheaded decisions during that period. Apparently, the Brits dropped thousands of kilos of an unknown, potentially toxic chemical out of a military aircraft. They’d do this right over their own civilian population in and around Wiltshire, Bedfordshire, & Norfolk. Some were even dropped across parts of the English Channel & the North Sea.
Eventually, it was found that they dropped around 4,600 kilos of the chemical, zinc cadmium sulfide. Though a known carcinogenic today, they did not know of this at the time. They knew of its potentially toxic nature and still dropped it on people from 1953 to 1964. This was exposed in 2015 by a Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, Ulf Schmidt. He wrote about this instance and more in his book, Secret Science: A Century of Poison Warfare and Human Experiments.
While the U.S. Army is known for conducting biowarfare experiments, this could have gone very bad for them. In 1956 & 1957, they conducted experiments on the cities of Avon Park, FL & Savannah, GA. As we know, when governments conducted experiments on their own people, they do not stop with one experiment. The Army did many on people in these cities, but one takes the cake. It is referred to as Operation Drop Kick. Why? We haven’t a clue.
In this experiment, they released millions of infected mosquitos into the two cities. They were infected with both Yellow Fever & Dengue Fever. The idea was to see if the mosquitoes could actually spread the illnesses. You know, like morons. To the shock of no one, many researchers on the project were infected. Illness spread, including major fevers, respiratory problems, stillbirths, and even typhoid. MANY people died from this experiment, among the other tests they conducted in each city.
The United States Government has been obsessed with learning about mind control & brainwashing. While such concepts do not actually exist, we do know one can affect the mind through suggestion and hypnotic techniques. This is often used by magicians, but the government did not consider asking them anything. Instead, they tried out drugs that could potentially alter the mind. This happened with Project MK-Ultra, a CIA-sponsored venture that was conducted on unwilling American citizens.
Governments conducted experiments on their own people quite a lot from the 1950s-to-1970s, and America was no different. Project MK-Ultra forced unwilling participants to take LSD and other mind-altering drugs. They were also subjected to bad hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal & sexual abuse, and many forms of torture. The CIA conducted these experiments at universities as well as hospitals and prisons. The U.S. Congress caught wind of the experiments and investigated the CIA in the 1970s. They would then shut down Project MKUltra.
The United States was forced to create the first atomic bomb in an effort to beat other nations to nuclear weapons. The idea was that this specific weapon would be essential to helping America remain a superpower in the world. Yet many scientists realized problems could occur when they are dropped, beyond the obvious destruction. Specifically, they wanted to find out at this point what the hazards of plutonium were. Government scientists began their research into this on April 10, 1945.
They decided to inject a car accident victim with plutonium in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They wanted to see how long it took the human body to rid itself of the radioactive material. Yet this was only the first of 400 human radiation experiments conducted on American citizens. They’d eventually find the effects of radiation based on dosage. They were even the first to test radiation as an experimental treatment for cancer, something Marie Curie had already proven to be possible years prior.
Year(s) Conducted:1921 to 1970s (Reactivated In The 1990s By Russia)
Nation Involved:Soviet Union/Russia
Governments conducted experiments on their own people often to test poison among other biological agents. Yet the nation known for doing this the most is certainly the Soviet Union, and eventually the main nation from the broken union, Russia. It all began in 1921 when the Soviets opened specific poison laboratories which they uniquely named Laboratory 1, Laboratory 12, and Kamera. Most of the experiments they conducted were on prisoners from their infamous Gulags.
While some of the prisoners were not Soviet citizens, most of them were. They were exposed to all types of deadly poisons, with the idea being to find the perfect toxin. They wanted to create a poison that was tasteless & odorless, allowing them to take it anywhere and make it impossible to know about. The Soviets also wanted to make it to where the toxin could not be detected even after an autopsy was conducted. Scientists exposed people to mustard gas, ricin, digitoxin, curare, and several others. After killing many prisoners, they began abducting people of all ages to test them on. Dozens would die as a result.
Nation Involved:The United States of America & Guatemala
When governments conducted experiments on their own people in the 1940s, you normally only saw it happen with just one nation. Yet in this situation, two were involved. From 1946 to 1948, American Public Health doctors infected 700 prison inmates, mental patients, and soldiers with STDs. Prisons in Guatemala allow conjugal visits, and thus, many prisoners get it on with a wife or girlfriend. Yet others can have “fun” with a prostitute. The U.S. National Institutes of Health decided to send in prostitutes already infected with syphilis for the prisoners to “get it on” with.
Governments conducted experiments on their own people for many reasons, but the United States took things up a notch starting in the 1960s. Several dozens of prisoners from Washington & Oregon were used as test subjects for something most would consider barbaric. The government used them to test the effects of radiation on testicles. Many were bribed with cash as well as the “suggestion” of parole if they took part in the experiment.
That resulted in 130 inmates agreeing to take part in the experiment. The U.S. Government used the University of Washington to conduct the tests. Yet no one seemed to realize how much radiation they were going to be exposed to. They were zapped with around 400 rads of radiation, equal to 2,400 chest x-rays. This would all happen within a 10-minute period. The prisoners did not learn how much they were exposed to until later on. In fact, in 2000, many sued the University over this in a class-action lawsuit. They eventually settled with them for $2.4 million.
Did we mention that the United States was obsessed with mind-control stuff during the Cold War era yet? They tested this out in multiple projects over the years. Usually, when governments conducted experiments on their own people in the mind-control realm, they try brain techniques. As in, they want to try hypnosis concepts or even exposure therapy. However, in Project Artichoke, the U.S. did try those things but also used hardcore drugs as well.
The CIA used LSD in this situation too, but more often than not, they actually used morphine. They would get people addicted to the stuff, then take it away. This forced bad drug withdrawals the CIA hoped would allow them to take advantage of the brain. They also used drugs that often forced people to have amnesia. By the way, every single person was unwilling and had no idea what the government was doing to them. Finally, the U.S. Government shot the project down by the 1960s.
During several wars, especially the Cold War, biological weapons were being employed around the world. This became a huge problem, and America wanted to make sure its Armed Forces were capable of surviving them. That led to the Department of Defense starting Project 112. During this experiment, the government sprayed several ships as well as hundreds of Navy sailors with nerve agents. Sarin and VX were among the ones they used.
The idea was to test the effectiveness of decontamination procedures & safety procedures known at the time. The Pentagon would later reveal that the official name for these experiments was actually “Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense, or SHAD. It was not quite as catchy as Project 112, but it helped many find out about the experiment. The Veterans Administration began studying SHAD and how it affected the Navy sailors. It was found several did have long-lasting problems.
During his investigation, Professor Schmidt also found that the UK used London commuters as test subjects. In fact, while this was sort of known for a bit, Schmidt found out the experiment was done at a far larger scale than previously assumed. It is known that several governments conducted experiments on their own people in the world of transit from the 1910s to the 1970s by now. Of course, it was usually to test how trains, subways, or cars worked for most.
Yet the British government actually decided to carry out a biological warfare field trial on the nation’s capital tube system at some point in May of 1964. Carried out by the government’s Porton Down Research Center, they released a chemical in large quantities known as Bacillus Globigii into the tube. The government scientists wanted to see if long-distance travel of aerosols in the tube network was due to train transportation, or if it simply came through the tube’s air ventilation system.
Back in the 1930s, there were tons of odd experiments taking place. Of course, governments experimented on their own people quite often in this era. Some used blood from younger people and inserted it into themselves to make themselves younger, and much more. However, one experiment conducted by the United States involved literally trying to give people cancer! We’re completely serious, people. The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Investigations was responsible for “infecting” human subjects with cancer cells.
The man leading the project was Dr. Cornelius Rhoads. He actually helped to form the U.S. Army Biological Warfare facilities in Maryland, Utah, and even Panama. In each one, the government along with the Institute began a series of radiation exposure experiments on patients in both government and civilian hospitals. Most of the experiments were done on minorities, including African American, Japanese, and Puerto Rican Americans. In total, around 60,000 soldiers were included too. Most were left suffering horrible, lifelong side effects. None were actually able to be “given” cancer either.
South Africa is known for its racist Apartheid Era obviously. While America and other nations have a dark past involving race, South Africa also has a horrible history with other people too. Specifically, their treatment of homosexual people during Apartheid was appalling. While governments experimenting on their own people is a common theme here, it has mostly been about race or class. In this situation, it was all about trying to “cure” homosexuality by force.
The man put in charge of this was Dr. Aubrey Levin, who was an Army Colonel and psychologist. The South African government rounded up several people by force for him to test. He often used electroconvulsive aversion therapy on these people. Levin felt it would “reorientate” them. Electrodes were strapped to a person’s upper arm with wires running to a dial from 1 to 10. Homosexual men were shown pictures of naked men whom they were encouraged to fantasize about. Then they were given several shocks to try and make them feel pain when thinking of men, but all of these tests backfired.
Back in the 1950s, governments conducted experiments on their own people quite often as a sort of “preparedness” test. The idea being that biological warfare was already a thing, and we needed to know how to respond to those issues. If something came to mainland America, how would we respond? The U.S. Government certainly wanted to know the answer. This is why they had the U.S. Navy spray a cloud of bacteria over the city of San Francisco.
Since San Fran is the second-largest city in the state of California, it was perfect for the experiment. How could people not see random bacteria in the air? Simple. The city is known for its fog, which makes sense considering it’s near the ocean. This allowed the Navy to hide its bacteria cloud within the fog. The residents of the city were not made aware of the biological experiment, and many became sick with pneumonia-like symptoms. At least one confirmed death even happened as a result.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, the U.S. Government wanted to conduct mind-control experiments. This particular experiment, known as Operation Midnight Climax, might be one of the worst though. The experiment was given its name due to the CIA using prostitutes to lure men into places where the CIA would abduct them. They used San Francisco and New York City as the spots they would do this, forcing men to comply with their experiments without their consent.
The CIA yet again used drugs like LSD among many others, as well as attempted other mind techniques. They never really found anything out in these experiments, like, ever. Usually, when governments conduct experiments on their own people, they at least vary them up. However, the United States continued with similar mind-control experiments. They just differ based on how they found their unwilling participants.
Year(s) Conducted:Sometime Between 664 to 610 B.C.
The Psammetichus Experiment is the oldest known psychological experiment known to history. We know of it due to the story from respected Greek historian, Herodotus. The story goes that the Egyptian Pharaoh Psammetichus I performed an experiment to determine if humans were born with the ability to speak. If so, which specific language is within them to actually use. To find this out, he ordered that two infants be brought up in a remote place by a shepherd.
The shepherd was told to never speak around the children. After two years, the children first began to speak. The word they seemed to repeat most often was “becos.” This is actually the Phyrian word for “bread.” This made Psammetichus feel that the capacity for speech was innate and that the natural language for humans is clearly Phyrian. Of course, there is a lot wrong with this specific experiment. Yet the Egyptian Pharaoh was onto something, causing similar experiments to happen in the future.
Back in the 1970s, there were many people who had a problem with the new way young people were acting. It was the “Hippie Period.” Sex, Drugs, and Rock N’ Roll was the mindset for American youth. Yet homosexuality was also becoming a little more accepted than it had been in the years prior. Yet many were still not cool with it, and that included the American government. While sexually transmitted diseases can pass between men and women, they can also pass between two men as well.
That leads us to the CDC’s Hepatitis B Experiment in 1978. They specifically asked for “promiscuous homosexual males” to test an experimental Hepatitis B vaccine. These experiments were done in the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. It did not seem to result in much at the time. However, just three years later, the AIDS Epidemic managed to break out among homosexual males. The cities it first began to sprout up? Los Angeles, San Fransico, and New York.
When governments conducted experiments on their own people in history up to the early 1900s, it was usually on people society looked down upon. Yet things really changed heavily in Nazi Germany, once Adolph Hitler took power and rounded up Jewish people. He blamed all the nation’s problems on them when there were many problems often unrelated to the Jews. In spite of this, over 6 million Jewish people were rounded up and put into Concentration Camps.
Several people were killed, and many more were put to work in labor camps. Yet some were forced to be Nazi lab rats for their scientists to experiment on. They forced some to drink seawater as a way to find ways to make it drinkable. Others were forced into freezing conditions to test hypothermia symptoms. Many unlucky few tested poisons, while potentially the worst were the surgical experiments. One being bone-grafting. Some were even given tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis, and other diseases to help the Nazis develop vaccines. There were far more than this too.
At some point in 1943, the United States Navy decided it wanted to expose its sailors to mustard gas. The official experiment was supposed to test the effectiveness of new clothing and gas masks. Since the gas was so damaging during World War I, it made sense to want to find ways to battle it. This led them to conduct experiments at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. The Navy recruited thousands of 17 & 18-year-old boys that were all roughly eight weeks into boot camp.
They were told that they needed people to help with experiments that could help them shorten the war. The boys jumped at the chance to help their country. When governments conducted experiments on their own people, as we know, there is always a catch. Only once the boys arrived at the Research Lab, they were told it would involve mustard gas. But they could not get out of the experiment now. Pretty much all of them suffered severe external and internal burns, which were ignored by the Navy. They even threatened some with the Espionage Act, which the nation used to punish spies, terrorists, etc.
Possibly the worst thing we ever did to our own people outside of slavery & war has to be the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. For this study, which began in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service began working with the Tuskegee Institute. They wanted to try to find a way to curb the effects of Syphilis. Yet they also wanted to track the progression of the disease to better understand it too. To do this, they went to Macon County, Alabama, and decided to pick 600 poor, illiterate, black male sharecroppers. 399 of them had previously contracted syphilis. However, they did not know they had it.
The government doctors did not tell them they had it either. However, they did promise them free healthcare, meals, and even burial insurance if they participated in their study. Being poor, this was life-changing for them. Even when we found that Penicillin could cure the illness, the government did not alert them of their syphilis diagnosis. In fact, they followed these men (even as many were dying), up to 1972 before the study was ended. Due to the lack of knowledge, many of the men’s wives caught the disease and their children were often born with congenital syphilis. It even led to a rise in the disease nationwide!