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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« Alnylam Cuts Back Hard | Main | Strangest Presentation You've Seen? »

January 20, 2012

Worst Lecture of All, Or Greatest?

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Posted by Derek

Depends on your perspective! Since it's Friday, I present this memoir of the infamous Brindley lecture from 1983. G.S. Brindley appears to have been a pioneer in urology, and in fact discovered the first useful therapies for erectile dysfunction.

But the way he chose to announce these discoveries to the world was. . .well, read the article. Let's just say that he was intent on leaving no doubts, and that no doubts were left.

Comments (30) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: General Scientific News


1. PPedroso on January 20, 2012 11:59 AM writes...

Definitely the best!
Thanks for the share...

For a moment there I thought that we would like to copulate with someone from the audience just to make his point...

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2. You're Pfizered on January 20, 2012 12:14 PM writes...

Just imagine how much better that presentation could have been if PowerPoint were around. Embedded videos, all kinds of cool animation...

Really, though, you've got to have bit of a mental problem to be showing pictures of your manhood in a presentation. Whipping it out for Show-and-Tell in a lecture would get you arrested and probably sued today.

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3. DLIB on January 20, 2012 12:18 PM writes...

Old school it. I had a similar learning experience with an old school be-speckled pharmacologist from Scotland - Professor Dermot Taylor. While giving a lecture on curare he pulled out a blow gun that some indians from the amazon had given him on a trip, put a dart in it with real tar that had real curare on it, and blew the dart across the class one could pull it out!!! ( of the piece of wood )

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4. luigi on January 20, 2012 12:56 PM writes...

A nice distraction - Professor Brindley was truly the embodiment of the English eccentric. I first encountered him when I went to seek career advice as a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Psychiatry. He spent our 30 min meeting describing a new musical instrument he had designed and, in the final minute, left me with the thought that whatever I decided to do would be a good idea. Another story about Prof Brindley was the time that he was giving a lecture - without a track suit - and could not find the pointer. A member of the audience gave him a laser pointer to use. At that time they were an expensive novelty. Prof Brindley took the laser pointer, held it to his mouth and spoke into it for the remainder of his lecture - intermittently shining the laser on the ceiling.
He was indeed a character.

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5. Sundowner on January 20, 2012 12:58 PM writes...

Derek, thanks for sharing this article with us. The opportunity of roaring with laughter is always welcomed...

The dramatic demonstration of the non-flammable properties of CFCs by Thomas Midgley in 1930 come to my mind.

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6. Boghog on January 20, 2012 1:16 PM writes...

We need more of these phenotypic assays :-}

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7. anonymous on January 20, 2012 1:32 PM writes...

@#2 Not if you are a (former)NY congressman by the name of Weiner(this is not a joke!) nor a (former)NY governor, Elliot Spitzer

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8. Curious Wavefunction on January 20, 2012 2:02 PM writes...

Nothing works like direct human clinical data.

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9. Lu on January 20, 2012 2:08 PM writes...

....and he wasn't booked by the police for indecent exposure?

What a tolerant people these scientists are!

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10. Chrispy on January 20, 2012 2:20 PM writes...

Administering compounds to oneself certainly strips away a considerable amount of the cash and bureaucracy associated with the standard path! I have known a few organic chemists who have tried their own compounds. Does anyone know if Sasha Shulgin is still doing this?

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11. A Nonny Mouse on January 20, 2012 2:52 PM writes...

I know a person (FRS chemist who owned a chemical facility in North Wales) who had to do this on a regular basis due to certain incidents in his past.

The best was his story about the time when he had to be taken to hospital after there had been no change in his "condition" after several hours. As he said, the lady in question certainly had an enjoyable time even if he didn't!

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12. A Nonny Mouse on January 20, 2012 3:08 PM writes...

Forgot to mention the paper which talks about a prostaglandin being accidentally injected into a penis during an operation. I was working on PG analogues at the time (Wellcome....) and so this was the talk of the labs.

Same person above also trialed that when it was being developed as a treatment. Viagra did not work with him due to the problem being elsewhere!

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13. Hasufin on January 20, 2012 3:14 PM writes...

I recall reading about that lecture a few years after. I would say reviews were mixed - the article I read treated it as an audacious, but effective, way to make a memorable presentation. I'd have to say that doctors attending a lecture on erectile dysfunction really oughtn't have delicate sensibilities; adults and especially medical professionals certainly ought to be able to discuss erections sensibly.

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14. ML on January 20, 2012 3:38 PM writes...

In a similar vein (ho, ho) is the late Mac Hadley’s account of his discovery of the pro-erectile effects of MC4R agonism. Well worth a read. It may have been only n = 1, but it appears there was little doubt as to the outcome.

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15. Chemjobber on January 20, 2012 4:19 PM writes...

@18: Eight hours? Good heavens.

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16. Dr. Zoidberg on January 20, 2012 7:51 PM writes...

Honestly, this is a perfect metaphor for what most people are trying to do in their chemistry talks. Professor Brindley just had the balls (pardon the pun) to actually do it. And it was probably more informative and entertaining than listening to someone yap about the merits of the new ligand they discovered for enantioselective alkylzinc addition to aldehydes or a total synthesis of some molecule with no activity but a really neat congested core structure.

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17. Secondaire on January 20, 2012 7:52 PM writes...

This is right on the boundary between hilarious and outrageously disturbing. I was wondering where it was going to go, and was starting to think masturbation was involved, and almost stopped reading.

While in general, our openness about such matters has increased (e.g., unwillingness to discuss FDR's wheelchair vs. willingness to discuss Clinton's sex acts), the appreciation of self-pharmacology has decreased. I remember my graduate school advisor talking about a lab practical where his lab partner injected him with some parasympathomimetic agent (arecoline or something similar) and he salivated 200 mL into a beaker. No doubt, he then went back to his flat in the Haight-Ashbury and experimented with other substances...

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18. S Silverstein MD on January 20, 2012 10:48 PM writes...

Medical people do all sorts of crazy things.

For example, one of my colleagues in medical school practiced placing a nasogastric tube (from nose into stomach) ... on himself... and could do it without any problem...

In med school also, there was a discussion and then an actual vote about having students learn breast exams on other female students. The motion was voted down...

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19. cynical1 on January 21, 2012 1:09 AM writes...

Marshall and Warren's Nobel Prize? Marshall infected himself with the bacteria (H Pylori) to prove the hypothesis.

Dunno where I'd go on that one vs. the Brindley ED study. But I guess you don't get a Nobel for boners.

Neither seem like something I'd do in my spare time......

I've got a lot of far out ideas..........but I don't get paid enough to try them out on myself (but I would if they paid me more....)

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20. non3 on January 21, 2012 2:17 AM writes...

@10: Old age (he's 86) has gotten to Sasha and he's in a quite bad state.

He trully was a pioneer and a darig individual, but with all the novel chemicals he tried on himself he was never careless or stupid about it.

from the article in:

This was the precise approach Sasha took in all his work, which became known as The Shulgin Method. It is to make hypotheses about a group of closely related chemical structures, and then make the actual compounds, and then test them to evaluate their action. Sasha tested through self-experimentation. He would start with tiny doses, then wait a few days, double the dose, then wait a few days, repeat, repeat. He and Ann would measure every aspect of the experience, the medical and physiological effects, the psychological and social effects, slowly and systematically increasing the dose until he reached the point where “the true nature of the compound revealed itself.”

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21. cliffintokyo on January 21, 2012 8:50 AM writes...

Just idly wondering here if Brindley donated his sperm to a bank; the consequences could be..... interesting.....for some poor, unsuspecting surrogate monster.

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22. LegacyMerckguy on January 21, 2012 9:04 AM writes...

The only think that I think would have made it funnier is if he had his "assistant" who he acknowledges is a prostitute, come out and demonstrate that it still works like it should. It of course is funny because I wasn't there. On the other hand, that would be the most epic conference story ever.

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23. Ajay Malik on January 21, 2012 3:19 PM writes...

It's clinical Phase I/IIa study. Saved millions for the company!!

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24. anonymous on January 21, 2012 3:56 PM writes...

Hey, Laidies and Genitile men;
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. I would not be surprised if Brindley was the seminal thrust for the TV ad campaign to erect Las Vegas as the "been there, done that and forget about it" Capital.

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25. Ajay Malik on January 21, 2012 4:04 PM writes...

and I forgot to mention this Guardian article: . He was indeed a talented (and eccentric) scientist:

"Brindley's activities range wide in science and medicine, and also in music. He invented a variety of bassoon, and in 1973 brought to bear many of his diverse interests in a study in the journal Nature called Speed of Sound in Bent Tubes and the Design of Wind Instrument."

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26. anonymous on January 21, 2012 4:19 PM writes...

I see your schwartz is as big as mine!

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27. Scarodactyl on January 21, 2012 6:44 PM writes...

@Dr. Zoidberg: I will say that I appreciated reading that comment in your voice.

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28. SteveM on January 21, 2012 10:49 PM writes...

Good thing for Dr. Brindley's lecture attendees that his wasn't experimenting with laxatives.

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29. Ben Zene on January 23, 2012 6:06 AM writes...

Dr. John Salthouse used to promote chemistry via a hugely entertaining flash bang show. I remember him commenting that he didn't become concerned when he could no longer see the back row of the audience but might become slightly alarmed if the front row disappeared from view. Great stuff.

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30. anonymous on January 23, 2012 7:44 AM writes...

I'm having a "hard time" believing all this....
(sorry, couldn't resist)

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