How Penile Injections Became Popular – The Brindley Lecture

In the early 1980’s some work was being done on the injection of papaverine into the side of the penis to stimulate erections. Nowadays I prescribe Tri-Mix (a blend of phentolamine, papaverine, and alprostadil) to help men achieve erections when other things don’t work. But up until 1983 this wasn’t something that was common. Professor Brindley, a psychiatrist from Britain, was interested in all sorts of medical areas. He decided that he was going to experiment with papaverine and see how much was needed and what the side effects were. But he did it in a very old-fashioned way.

He used himself as his research subject! And as he went, injecting himself and examining the results, he made a box of slides showing his penis in various states of erection. Now I’ve heard of Edison keeping numerous logbooks, but this takes the cake!

Not content with just publishing his data, he arranged to give a lecture at the 1983 meeting of the American Urological Association. One person wrote an excellent account: How (not) to communicate new scientific information: a memoir of the famous Brindley lecture. I’ll tell you the punchline – he injected papaverine into his penis and in the lecture dropped his pants to show the audience so they could see for themselves!

I wish I had been present for so memorable a lecture. I’m sure the audience thought it was going to be a dull show and boy did they get some excitement! I can’t recommend his tactics but I marvel at Dr. Brindley’s self-confidence.

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