John Romulous, later changed to John R. Brinkley, was born in North Carolina in 1885. He was orphaned at a young age but he wished to one day become a doctor like his father. Brinkley attended medical school in Kansas, but never finished. Instead, he obtained fraudulent credentials and began practicing medicine. Between 1917 and into the 1930s, John Brinkley was making a fortune on his “revolutionary” surgical procedure which involved placing goat testicles into men’s scrotums to cure infertility and improve virility (Pilkington). Men were paying him upwards of $750.00 to have this done to them. For patients with more money to spare, he offered to transplant the testicles of death row prisoners. At the height of his career, Brinkley had around 50 new excited patients to see each week (Weiser-Alexander).
Not only is he referred to as the “Goat Gland Doctor,” but he is also referred to as one of the pioneers of radio broadcasting. John spent some of his wealth on the construction of a radio transmitter and he operated one of the first ever radio stations in the state of Kansas (“John…”). His main source of advertising was the radio where he advised men, young and old, to undergo the procedures which he guaranteed would positively impact their lives. Some patients did claim to have positive results from the surgery, most of which were likely a placebo effect. There are at least 42 known instances where Brinkley’s patients died from post-surgical infections but even less is known about the long-term effects his other patients experienced throughout the course of their lives (Weiser-Alexander).
In the 1930s, criticism fell on Brinkley’s medical practice. He attempted to sue the editor of the Journal of American Medicine for libel but this led to the discovery of his factitious diplomas. He would go on to be sued for malpractice and was forced to declare bankruptcy. He died on May 26, 1942 after the ruin of his finances and reputation.
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- “John R. Brinkley.” Kansas Historical Society. Modified April, 2014. Accessed 4 April, 2022. https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/john-r-brinkley/11988.
- Pilkington, Ben. “5 Infamous Quacks from Medical History.” MDLINX. 4 October, 2021. Accessed 4 April, 2022. https://www.mdlinx.com/article/5-infamous-quacks-from-medical-history/5LxZTiwXNW2QyZ3v1nqS7y.
- Weiser-Alexander, Kathy. “John R. Brinkley-Goat Gland Doctor.” Legends of America. June 2021. Accessed 4 April, 2022. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/john-brinkley/.