Top 5 Science Fails: 3 – West, Thomas, Pierce and Tusko the Elephant

Here is number 3 in my Top 5 Science Fails countdown, click through for numbers 5 and 4:

Number 3: Louis West, Warren Thomas, Chester Pierce and Tusko the Elephant

Life for an Elephant is free from many of the pressures humans experience. Unfortunately, in the name of science, one Elephant gained a little too much knowledge about one of the darker sides of modern society.

During the 1960’s LSD was being hailed as a new wonder drug and its effects were being widely investigated. Psychiatrists were interested in the drug as it appeared to mimic several of the symptoms of some mental illnesses. West, Thomas and Pierce viewed it as a chance to gain a more controlled way to observe and test mental illness. This proved to be unfortunate for Tusko the Elephant.

The researchers chose Elephants for their study for several reasons. Firstly, Elephants brains are similar to human brains in several aspects. Elephants can also suffer for sort episodes of mania know as musth which the scientists were hoping to stimulate with the LSD. The trouble that faced the researchers was how much to give?

Elephants has previously been observed to be resistant to some drugs. So, not wanting to risk not giving enough they decided upon 297 milligrams (1000 times the regular dose for a human). Which was, and still is, the largest dose of LSD ever given to an individual organism.

The effects were fast and drastic. He began to trumpet loudly before running around his pen energetically. He next began to lose control of his movements, and despite his mate trying to help support him, he fell to the floor, tongue turning blue. The researchers quickly tried to administer drugs to counteract the effects of the LSD, but it was no use, after a few minutes Tusko was dead.

The researchers theorised several reasons for this shocking effect, but came to the final conclusion in Science that “It appears the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD”.

The study caused a public outcry and the researchers were vilified for the mistakes made during the study.

Tusko may not have survived his experience with LSD however, over the years he has developed a cult fame and even has a band and song named after him (although I tihnk he probably deserves a better song than this!):

Tusko Fatale – ‘The Unfortunate Elephant’

Next in the list to follow tomorrow….


Elephants on Acid and other Bizarre Experiments by Alex Boese

One thought on “Top 5 Science Fails: 3 – West, Thomas, Pierce and Tusko the Elephant

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Science Fail: Number 1 – Thomas Midgely Jr and Planet Earth « B Good Science Blog

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