Crooks Cured by Surgeons Knife (Jul, 1930)

This is pretty terrifying, though I suppose it is just a much cruder form of how we use psychiatric drugs today.

A few things I noticed:
1. obviously being gay is a disorder.
2. they didn’t say if the prisoners were actually given any choice about their operations.
3. what did they do to the kids?
4. This quote
“It points also to the more illuminating truth that if the grandparents, or even the parents, of these men had been given proper medical and surgical treatment for their own glandular abnormalities, their children and their grandchildren would not have offended society…”
sounds like Lamarckism. Though according to Wikipedia that theory seems to be making a comeback.
5. Apparently you can tell a criminal by their face. From the pictures in the article that seems to mean “Foreign Looking”.

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Crooks Cured by Surgeons Knife

Here for the first time is the amazing story of how criminals in San Quentin prison, California, are made honest by giving them healthy glands.


THE surgeon’s knife and the laboratory test tube have entered the campaign against crime. Experimental researches, carried on over a number of years and beginning to show results in control and reform institutions this summer, indicate that criminal tendencies may be eradicated, development of the criminal averted, and the established criminal restored to normal by medical and surgical treatment.

Most of the work which has resulted in this astounding discovery has been done in schools for “backward,” or “wayward, children in San Francisco, and among the inmates of San Quentin prison in California. Looking into the causes of criminal behavior, Dr. Ralph A. Reynolds, of San Francisco, has opened a door which apparently leads not only to the prevention of crime, but to the reformation of the adult criminal. Confirmation of the value of the method of treatment of criminal tendency by surgery and medicine awaits the test of time, but in the five years so far devoted to this work results have been achieved which indicate that the surgeon may take the place of the policeman, the physician that of the judge, and that civilization will prevent rather than punish crime.

In the course of these experiments, it was found that a very high percentage of the inmates of the prison were suffering from some abnormal condition of the endocrine or “internally secreting” glands, which empty directly into the blood stream. It was learned that perpetrators of crimes of violence showed disturbance of the thyroid, the twin gland in the front of the neck which regulates growth, while forgers and similar criminals against property were found to have abnormal conditions in the pituitary. This is a pear-shaped body about the size of a bean, lying at the base of the brain. Perverts and degenerates hid certain derangements of the sexual glands under apparently normal exteriors.

Working with Dr. L. L. Stanley, San Quentin prison physician, Doctor Reynolds found that beneficial results were obtained, both in physical condition and mental outlook, when the glandular derangements of these prisoners were corrected. Approximately sixty were so treated by operation and by administration of gland extracts. Not one failed to respond to the treatment.

THESE results with adults in the penitentiary led to two conclusions, the most important that have been made in the scientific study of crime: First, that the so-called “criminal instinct” may be removed from the minds of men, and women, by the study and treatment of the endocrine-gland systems, in childhood or later.

Second, that potential criminality may be eliminated by the treatment of these glands in youth, whenever and wherever children are found to be suffering from such abnormal conditions.

In other words, it now seems not only possible, but highly probable, that malsecretion (that is, a secretion which is too large or too small, or chemically unbalanced) of some gland is responsible for the greater part of the crime in the world.

“We are beginning to accept the fact that the criminal is not essentially ‘bad’,” said Dr. Reynolds, “but that he merely is a person who shows a departure from what society has established as the ‘normal.’ There is a growing belief among scientists that, in dealing with criminals, too much attention is paid to the mind and the emotions, and too little to the sources from, which the mind and the emotions arise, and by which they are controlled.

“On the reasonable assumption that these sources exist in the functions of the body itself, and more specifically in the chemical functions of the body, the next logical step is to find the mechanism which controls the body’s chemical activities.

“Evidence is that this mechanism exists in the endocrine glands—the glands of internal secretion, also known as the ‘ductless’ glands, because their cells secrete directly into little blood vessels in the glands, without the aid of ducts. In connection with this reasoning, it appears quite obvious than any unbalanced condition of the chemistry of the body will lead to various and varying forms of unbalance in the mental and emotional outlook, and in the conduct (i. e., behavior) of the person involved.

THE work at San Quentin, of which more later, leads logically to a study of the field from which all criminals are drawn—our children. It would be tremendously more advantageous to society to prevent the development of the criminal, than to reform him after he is developed. Aside from the saving to humanity, the economic value to civilization of the salvaging of young lives, and the conversion of young minds to useful occupations, cannot be estimated.

“My work has taken me into the medical direction if two institutions, involving about 200 children. In virtually every ‘backward’ or ‘wayward’ child, boy or girl, I have been able to see a physical departure from normal. In many that as yet are neither backward nor wayward, I see evidence of the future development of abnormal conditions in the gland system. There is the child of low, often moronic, mind, who can do good work with his hands, but not with his brain. He is mistrained, and, because his mind does not respond to the training given him, he is called a ‘dumb-bell’ or worse. He goes out into the world unprepared to earn what the world calls an ‘honest living.’ He is drawn into a ‘gang.’ He is involved in a hold-up, or a gang-fight. The law gets him, and he— with an antisocial inclination in his subnormal mind—becomes a criminal.

“Such a child should be discovered; his ancestry traced; his physical and mental history recorded; the cause of his mental condition found. He may not be—in fact, he often is not—an obvious ‘gland case,’ but in many, many instances he will be found possessed of an abnormal thyroid or pituitary gland, and back of him will lie a history of ancestors similarly affected.

“Now, many children who show visible endocrine disturbances have pleasant types of minds, never brilliant, often below normal; but usually best described as ‘fat and good-natured.’ Their obesity or extreme fatness can be reduced by the correction of their glandular disturbances, and with such reduction comes an increase in industry and ambition. The moronic mind cannot be improved, but it can be given a sound body, and it can be given the training for work with the hands which will enable its possessor to win and maintain an honest place in society.

“What we must learn about children is why one becomes a criminal and another does not. Then we must treat the subnormal child—by medicine or by surgery—to restore the chemical balance of the body. This done, we must prepare him, or her, to earn an adequate living, so that the economic incentive to crime—as well as the mental receptivity to criminal ideas— may be removed. By so doing, we shall prevent crime. Indeed, we are so preventing it, in the schools mentioned.

“It seems to me essential, as the first step in this program, that orphanages and other schools containing numbers of children whose heredity and early environment may have been unsatisfactory should segregate the problem-children for study and treatment. Certainly, children so cared for could not be harmed, while the opportunity for their improvement is tremendous.

“THERE can be no question that in the majority of instances, malsecretion of some one or more of the endocrine glands is responsible for the commission of crime. To return to the experimental work at San Quentin prison, we have traced certain criminal activities directly to certain glands.

“The treatment of these glands has resulted, in many instances, in marked mental and physical improvement of the criminal, and, moreover, in what bears every evidence of being the elimination of the tendency to commit crime.

“THE principle involved is the restoration of normal mentality through establishment of chemical stability in the body by the treatment of the gland, or glands, involved.

“Some time ago, with the cooperation of Doctor Stanley, I undertook to carry through to conclusion a series of studies and treatments of prisoners showing gland disorders. Among these were men with enlargement of the thyroid gland, the very fat, the very thin, the very tall, the very short, those having abnormal hair distribution and growth, and some with subnormal sex glands.

“The thyroid group was divided into three classes: “First, those having an excessive growth of the normal cells of the thyroid gland, resulting in a highly active, ‘nervous,’ and emotionally unstable mentality. This condition is known as ‘hyper plasia,’ or overgrowth.

“The second class consisted of those having tumorous or lumpy growths of foreign tissue within the thyroid gland. This growth secretes a poisonous substance into the blood stream, resulting in great excitability, emotional instability, increased bodily activity, and, frequently, periods of depression. This condition is known as ‘adenoma.’ ” In the third group were gathered those with ‘colloid goiter;’ that is, an abnormal growth of the thyroid gland, caused by a deposit of supposedly inert material in the gland tissue. As a rule, this condition does not present obvious external symptoms, but it does produce a tendency to obesity.

“When we referred to the records of the crimes committed by these men, we found that in approximately seventy percent of the cases those in classifications one and two had committed Crimes of violence; that is, murder, assault with intent to kill, manslaughter, or manslaughter from reckless driving.

“EVEN more important than this, we learned that many of these men had records of similar, though lesser, crimes running back to boyhood years. One man showed tendencies to this sort of crime at the age of eight. Had he been given the proper medical and surgical care when a child, his life could have been turned to usefulness, and society would have been saved the labor and expense of protecting itself from his criminal tendency.

Records of these three groups of prisoners in general showed that each suffers from an abnormal stimulation of some sort. It appears to be certain that this instability of their mental processes is due solely to maloperation of the thyroid gland.

“Five of these men, intractable and guilty of frequent attacks on other prisoners, were given treatment by operation. That is, the hyper-plastic or overdeveloped tissue and the adenomas (gland enlargement) were removed. All have shown marked improvement in behavior, their mental stability has increased, their tendency to impulsive action has been reduced, and it is strongly probable that they will leave the prison with minds more in accord with the processes of civilization, and more amenable to its limitations, than they ever have been.

“Another group of prisoners—not thyroid abnormals—was made up of men having a disorder of the pituitary gland, commonly diagnosed as being due to undersecretion of the anterior or forward lobe of this gland. It was learned from the records that more than eighty percent of these cases were ‘sent up’ for crimes of irresponsibility, such as forgery, embezzlement, bad-check passing, and petty theft.

“IT IS interesting to note that not one in this ‘pituitary group’ had committed any crime of violence.

“In daily life, these are the fat, good-natured men; irresponsible, usually living far beyond their means, always in need of money, and so abnormal in endocrinal condition that they follow the paths of least resistance. Yet they are extremely difficult to arouse to a fighting mood, and in their efforts to fulfill their desires, stop far short of violence of any kind.

“We found that, generally speaking, it was possible to modify in a marked degree the personalities of these men, giving them greater seriousness, making them more responsible, and fixing in their minds a stronger sense of their proper attitude toward their fellow men.

“We did this by administering what we found to be the proper combination of pituitary and other glandular extracts, which seem to act as catalyzers, or reagents in the distribution of the introduced pituitary substance.”

Doctor Reynolds and Doctor Stanley also worked with a third group of prisoners, known as the “dys-gonads” (those having badly developed sex glands), involving two divisions, the homosexuals and the undersexed. Most of these are furtive, secretive, unaggressive, harmless men, but here and there arises one who suddenly becomes vicious, without apparent reason. The majority of them are in prison for crimes of perversion, yet there are thousands of persons of similar type in society, hiding their perversions to such an extent that they never have fallen foul of the law.

Treatment of this type by glandular extract produced demonstrable, highly beneficial results, and there is little doubt in the mind of Doctor Reynolds that the pervert and degenerate types may be returned a long way toward normalcy by this artificial restoration of the balance of the sex glands.

Thus, the three departments of crime—acts of violence, attacks on property, and perversion—have been given tests of five years and proved to have their source in unbalanced mentality, produced by abnormalities in the glands of internal secretion. Yet both Doctor Reynolds and Doctor Stanley, pioneers and leaders in this study of glandular criminology, insist that the results obtained be regarded only as “experimental.”

“OF THE prisoners examined, numbering hundreds, eighty-five percent had a definite history of disorder of the endocrine glands in one or both parents,” continued Doctor Reynolds. “Similar abnormal conditions of these glands were found in grandparents, uncles, aunts, sisters, and brothers of these men.

“This points clearly to a powerful hereditary factor at work in disorders of the glands of internal secretion.

“It points also to the more illuminating truth that if the grandparents, or even the parents, of these men had been given proper medical and surgical treatment for their own glandular abnormalities, their children and their grandchildren would not have offended society, and would not now be in prison, burdens on that civilization whose rules they have broken because of the upsetting of their endocrinal gland balance.

“Beyond this somewhat scientific deduction, we are met squarely with the tremendous economic and sociological fact that if we remove the endocrine abnormalities from the children of today, we shall reduce greatly the crimes against the society of tomorrow. If we restore the balance of the thyroid gland in the throat of little Johnny Jones, thereby calming permanently his childish outbursts of temper, we are in a fair way to prevent a murder. If we train wee Billy Smith’s pituitary glands so that he refrains from stealing his neighbor’s apples, we have curbed the malsecretion of the gland which has put other and older men into prison for embezzlement and forgery.

“WE ARE becoming more and more certain that behind every ‘ backward’ and wayward’ child there is a physical reason. Something is wrong with the internal mechanism, the glandular chemistry, of that child’s body. If, through a study of the child’s endocrinal history, and a complete examination of its present condition, we can restore the balance of the gland influence on the child’s mentality, then we can remove what we call, for want of a better term, the ‘tendency to crime.'”

So much for the prevention of crime, for the averting, in youth, of a predisposition toward wrongdoing in later years. We have seen what Doctor Reynolds and Doctor Stanley have accomplished with the adult criminal in San Quentin prison. The logical path along which this work must go is the one of restoring to these men such mental balance that they will realize their responsibilities to themselves, to society, and to civilization. Doctor Reynolds believes that this can be done in many instances, but his demand is for time to observe the result of experimental surgical and medical work done on these prisoners.

Let Doctor Reynolds speak again: “We have with us another and larger group which has been only touched in this study of glandular balance and control. These are the persons who, we say casually, ‘have criminal faces’; scientifically, they are classified as having the stigmata of degeneration. Their facial abnormalities—from the sight of which the layman judges them to be at least potential criminals—are due to disturbances in growth and development. Endocrinologists, specialists in the study and treatment of endocrine glands, have come to look upon them as glandular subjects, inasmuch as virtually always their ancestry reveals a long and involved history of disarrangement of the glands of internal secretion.

“IN THE ancestry of such persons also appear insanity, epilepsy, feeble-mindedness, cataracts early in life, harelip, strabismus (commonly known as cross-eye’), and other defections from the normal, scientifically classified as ‘stigmata.’ Their histories often begin with a parent who, for example, had a pituitary abnormality, from which only other pituitary disarrangements will appear in the children for several generations. Then, quite suddenly, in one of these generations, the offspring will begin to show other defects in development, abnormalities of mind as well as of body.

“Often these ‘degenerations’ are not accompanied by any of the recognizable symptoms of gland disorders, and it is only from their histories that the true causes of their conditions, their physical, mental, and moral aberrations, may be obtained. For this reason medical science has been slow to accept the close relationship which undoubtedly exists between the ‘ man with the criminal face’ and glandular disarrangements.

“If the earlier stages of gland disorder are diagnosed and treated, much can be accomplished, but when the hereditary process has reached the point— several generations later— of pronounced stigmata of degeneration, segregation of these individuals seems to be the only method of eliminating their spread. Low fecundity and early death combine to wipe out this type, if so isolated that new blood cannot be brought in by marriage.

“ALL the types in our penal and corrective institutions, these seem to be the ones whose segregation and confinement is necessary until they die out, in spite of all that has been or can be done for them in the way of effort to restore their mental and physical stability by gland treatment.

“In the near future, large groups of prisoners at San Quentin and other penal institutions are to be classified as to the type of crime committed, and then studied as to the glandular disturbance which preponderates in each group. On the determination of the extent to which criminal tendencies can be reduced by restoration of the endocrine gland balance rests the greatest hope of modern society for the prevention of crime in future generations, and the reformation—or, better, the ‘remaking’— of the criminal in this generation.”

  1. Hirudinea says: August 15, 20119:23 am

    They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and this doctor obviously had a little knowledge of the endocrine system and the arrogance to run with it.

  2. Christoph says: August 15, 20115:26 pm

    Jesus, this is just as bad as the theory of the four humors. Instead, there are the three glands, which by over- or underactivity define the character of the person.

  3. G. L. Tyrebyter says: August 15, 201110:05 pm

    I’m so glad science has found the reason for all of society’s ills. This great research has led to the eradication of our nation’s prisons and led to the total lockstep of today’s peaceful and contented citizens. Look at all the learned doctors that came aboard on this radical research. Thank god I had my Thyroid removed! Who knows how many lives this has saved!

  4. GaryM says: August 16, 20117:39 am

    One of the most chilling parts of this chilling article: ““We are beginning to accept the fact that the criminal is not essentially ‘bad’,” said Dr. Reynolds, “but that he merely is a person who shows a departure from what society has established as the ‘normal.’ ”

    If you depart from what’s “normal,” you’ll be medicated and operated on till you conform.

  5. Devak says: August 16, 201111:29 pm

    If you look at the picture on page 21, second row middle…you can see Adolph Hitler. Check it yourself. Of cousre it figures.

  6. Devak says: August 16, 201111:31 pm

    I saw the part about male gonads. Just what is the normal size? Are TSA agents at the airports going to be measuring these as a way to spot terrorists? I wouldn’t doubt it.

  7. Kibo says: August 17, 20113:00 am

    And this sort of baloney is why Alan Turing didn’t live to see “Pac-Man”. (He killed himself after being forced to get estrogen injections to “cure” his homosexuality.)

  8. Mike says: August 24, 20116:12 pm

    Devak, nah, That mustache was popular mustache at the time. My Grandfather had one until the war.

  9. A. jensen says: December 12, 20114:51 am

    This ranks alongside the Tuskagee experiments, MK Ultra,early radiation experiments for professional arrogance.Sadly it even goes on today look at the over medication of children for
    a catch all behaviour problem Attention deficit disorder. I wonder if they sterilised a few of these feeble minded inmates in addition. Its like that movie judgement at Nuremberg?
    They knew the nazi experiments were over the top but they didnt place the same viewpoint to these experiments.

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