January 18

Dr. Maitland Baldwin, a student of Harold Hebb explored sensory deprivation at NIH

Maitland Baldwin, a scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), had no moral inhibitions about carrying out CIA’s most radical experimental proposals. He had conducted “a rather gruesome experiment” on an Army “volunteer” who was kept in a box for 40 hours until he kicked his way out after an emotional break down during which he sobbed intensely for an hour. The experiment convinced Baldwin that prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation could break any man, no matter how intelligent or strong-willed. John Marks relates that in 1955, Morse Allen, head of ARTICHOKE approached Baldwin about conducting an open ended sensory deprivation experiment to which Baldwin responded stating: “beyond that [40 hr. limit] sensory deprivation would almost certainly cause irreparable damage. Nevertheless, Baldwin agreed that if the Agency could provide the cover and the subjects, he would do, according to Allen’s report, “terminal type” experiments.”

Baldwin presented his proposal; an experiment that would lock someone up in a lightproof, soundproof box indefinitely — to see what would happen. Mercifully, an NIH medical officer shot down the project as “immoral and inhuman,” suggesting that those pushing the experiments might want to “volunteer their heads for use in Dr. Baldwin’s ‘noble’ project.” (Marks. Manchurian Candidate, Chapter 8)

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