VORONOFF, SERGE. (1866-1951). Russian-born, French surgeon who earned renown for grafting tissue from monkey testicles onto human testicles for therapeutic purposes. ADS. (“S. Voronoff”). 1p. 4to. Paris, June 24, 1936. In French. A typed receipt for payment on Collège de France stationery, compensating him for his work as the director of a laboratory. Voronoff’s salary is 20,000 francs a year, with 5,000 francs disbursed each trimester before deductions. His handwritten note in the lower left corner acknowledges receipt of 4561 francs.
Uncommon Document Signed by the “Monkey Gland” Surgeon
Signed by Serge Voronoff
After studying transplantation under Nobel Prize-winning surgeon and eugenicist Alexis Carrel, Voronoff spent time in Egypt where he observed the effects of castration on eunuchs. He also studied Mauritian physiologist and neurologist Charles E. Brown-Sequard’s 1889 experiments injecting himself with “an aqueous extract of dog and guinea pig testes, testicular blood, and seminal fluid,” to restore sexual energy and increased lifespan, (“Regaining Lost Youth: The Controversial and Colorful Beginnings of Hormone Replacement Therapy in Aging,” Journal of Gerontology, Kahn). Voronoff aimed to improve on Brown-Sequard’s methods and, in 1917, he began experimenting with the transplantation of various tissues in animal subjects at Paris’ Collège de France where his future wife, American socialite Evelyn Bostwick, served as his laboratory assistant and funded his work. In 1920, he transplanted slices of chimpanzee and baboon testicles into the scrotum of a human subject and, in 1923, his work was lauded by the Congress of Surgeons in London. His books Life: A Means of Restoring Vital Energy and Prolonging Life and Rejuvenation by Grafting claimed that the procedure would enhance sexual performance, improve physical stamina and prolong life. During the 1920s, his procedure was so popular that Voronoff, who became independently wealthy after Bostwick’s death, established a special clinic in Algiers and a private monkey farm on the Italian Riviera. References to Voronoff’s work can be found in such disparate places as a poem of ee cummings, one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Irving Berlin’s song “Monkey-Doodle-Doo” which was featured in the Marx Brothers film The Coconuts, and even in the name of a cocktail at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris called the Monkey Gland. Although initially earning some endorsement from the medical establishment, his experiments transplanting human ovaries into monkeys and trying to inseminate them drew public ire and by the 1940s his methods and theories had fallen out of favor and were eventually debunked.
Folded with nominal wear and in excellent condition. Uncommon.