May 7

1931: Cornelius Rhoades, MD

Cornelius Rhoads, MD, a prominent, Harvard trained pathologist conducted a cancer experiment in Puerto Rico under the auspices of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Investigations resulting in the death of thirteen subjects. He was accused of purposely infecting his Puerto Rican subjects with cancer cells after a Puerto Rican physician uncovered the experiment and a handwritten letter Dr. Rhoades indicated that Puerto Ricans “are beyond doubt the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere. . . .What the island needs is not public health work, but a tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the population.” (Wikipedia)

An official investigation covered-up the facts to protect both Rhoades and the Rockefeller Institute. Rhoads went on to establish U.S. Army Biological Warfare facilities in Maryland, Utah, and Panama developing chemical weapons, and was later named to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Rhoads was also responsible for radiation experiments on prisoners, hospital patients, and soldiers. [Puerto Ricans Outraged Over Secret Medical Experiments, 2002]

Rhoads was awarded the Legion of Merit for establishing chemical warfare labs in Maryland, Utah and Panama; was on the cover of TIME magazine (1949); was honored by the American Association for Cancer Research by naming its exemplary scientist award the Cornelius Rhoads Award (in 1979). That award re-ignited the controversy over his experiments on and his racist views about Puerto Ricans. In 2003, the medal was rescinded.


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