Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Max Kampelman, diplomat and ex-guinea pig, is dead at 92

Max Kampelman was well-known and respected for his career as a diplomat and nuclear arms negotiator. Less widely known is his experience as a research subject in the University of Minnesota starvation studies during World War II.  Kampelman was a conscientious objector and a member of the Civilian Public Service, which supplied subjects to the university. Todd Tucker documented the study in his excellent book, The Great Starvation Experiment, which I reviewed in The American Prospect in 2007.  Here is an excerpt.

"Clinical research has always depended on the availability of people whose circumstances were bad enough that medical experiments looked like a good option. Today it is often the poor who are recruited, but during World War II it was conscientious objectors. The Civilian Public Service (CPS) was set up as an alternative to the military for conscientious objectors, many of whom belonged to pacifist denominations such as the Quakers, the Mennonites, and the Brethren. Many CPS jobs involved menial labor, but another option for objectors was to volunteer for medical research, which was conducted at camps all over the United States. Some volunteers gargled pneumonia-infected sputum. Others wore lice-infested underwear in order to contract typhus. Another group of participants allowed mosquito-filled boxes to be strapped to their bellies so that they would get malaria. And as Todd Tucker documents in his thoroughly absorbing book, The Great Starvation Experiment, one extraordinary group at the University of Minnesota was intentionally starved."

"The Minnesota study was conducted toward the end of the World War II in order to understand how best to treat malnourished citizens in the newly liberated countries of Eastern Europe. The experiment's chief scientist, Ancel Keys, placed 36 young men on semi-starvation rations for six months. The subjects emerged looking like concentration-camp victims, but the drama in Tucker's book comes from the psychological effects of starvation: the slow narrowing of desire, the obsession with food, the disturbing dreams of cannibalism. One subject wound up "accidentally" chopping off his fingers with an ax so that he would be dropped from the trial."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this! My father, Robert Villwock, was Max's official buddy for the experiment. As such, I always took an interest in Max and hoped to have an opportunity to meet him someday. While the world will remember him as a great negotiator, he will always be Dad's buddy to me.