Human Medical Experimentation
From Smallpox Vaccines to Secret Government Programs
by Frances R. Frankenburg, Editor
January 2017, 322pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-897-9
$108, £84, 94€, A148
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eBook Available: 978-1-61069-898-6
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Many medical experiments have demonstrated genius—and ignored the humanity of research subjects.

Intended for students and general readers alike, this encyclopedia covers the history of human medical experimentation, for better and worse, from the time of Hippocrates to the present.

Thanks to medical experiments performed on human subjects, we now have vaccines against smallpox, rabies, and polio. Yet the advances that saved lives too often involved the exploitation of vulnerable populations. Covering the history of human medical experimentation from the time of Hippocrates to today, this work will introduce readers to the topic through a mixture of essays and ready-reference materials. The book covers the experiments themselves; the people, companies, and government agencies that carried them out; the relevant medical and sociopolitical background; and the legislation and other protective measures that arose as a result.

The encyclopedia is divided chronologically into six periods: pre-19th century, the 19th century, the pre-World War II 20th century, the World War II era, the Cold War era, and the post-Cold War period to today. Each period begins with an introductory essay and ends with a bibliography. Alphabetically arranged entries in each section cover pertinent people, experiments, and topics. The volume is enriched throughout with a wealth of primary sources, such as physicians’ descriptions of their experiments. Medical experiments are not just a thing of the past, and readers will also learn about questions and debates related to contemporary efforts to advance medical science.


  • Offers readers a broad understanding of human experimentation
  • Reviews experimentation from the point of view of the history of medicine
  • Covers issues of vulnerable, exploited populations and unethical experimentation
  • Features introductory and time-period overview essays that add necessary contextual information and primary source documents that support AP and Common Core objectives
  • Includes specialized bibliographies that serve as a gateway to further study
Frances R. Frankenburg, MD, is professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and chief of inpatient psychiatry at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, MA. Her published works include ABC-CLIO's Vitamin Discoveries and Disasters: History, Science, and Controversies and Brain Robbers: How Alcohol, Cocaine, Nicotine, and Opiates Have Changed the World. She received her medical education at the University of Toronto.


2017 Best Reference Title—Library Journal, February 28, 2018


"An interesting book on medical experimentation from pre-nineteenth century to the present. . . . The primary sources that the editor chose will be useful to researchers. . . This will be a useful addition to college and university libraries that have programs that require students to use original source material."—Booklist, May 4, 2017

"Indeed, while intended as a reference book and jumping-off point for researchers interested in exploring the subject of human medical experimentation, this title makes for fascinating reading for laypeople as well. VERDICT For most public and academic libraries."—Library Journal, April 15, 2017

"The book offers a comprehensive index system, scholarly contributions, and essential historical perspectives and summaries. . . . This captivating volume is recommended for public and academic libraries."—ARBAonline, November 1, 2017

"The book is well written and informative, and it is not full of jargon that only a professional would understand. The entries are concise, and for the most part, objective, given the subject matter. I know of no other reference work, nor could I find any, covering medical experimentation on humans from its inception to present day since the majority are dedicated to a particular time period, person, or experiment, and none makes an attempt at objectivity. It is definitely a worthwhile addition for public and academic libraries."—Reference Reviews, April 6, 2018

"Covers the topic with 122 entries from Galen of Pergamom (131 CE – circa 201 CE) through Trovan in Nigeria (1996-2009). The book also provides introductory, timeline and reference material."—Journal of Clinical Research, June 4, 2021
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