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Professor Guinea Pig
"Professor? Oh, no, not again..."

"September 13th, 11:56 PM. I have started this alone, and I must finish it... alone.
I know now that I must use... myself... as the subject of the experiment."

So you're a bona fide scientific genius, and you've come up with a wonder drug that will allow people to live forever. So now you'll apply for approval from the FDA, right? Begin animal testing, assessing major organ toxicity in rats and small primates, then monitoring the subjects for carcinogenic effects and reproductive complications; who knows, if the drug behaves as predicted you could be doing Phase One clinical trials inside of five years.

Or, you could just mix up a batch of the stuff in your basement and drink it....

That's just what scientists do in fiction. They might go as far as trying out their incredibly experimental drug/strength ray/time-altering device/etc. on a squirrel or something first, but the point is that they move onto human testing quickly, usually without any safeguards or anyone observing, and they use themselves as a test subject. They might have their reasoning — they needed to get it done quickly because the invention is needed for some time-sensitive purpose (e.g. a dying loved one, a company about to go under); the story's setting (such as After the End) inherently limits the options in terms of test subjects; they're a discredited scientist, forced to work under the radar; the invention is being created not for public consumption but for the scientist's own (usually evil) ends; or the scientist is just plain crazy. But none of those are decent reasons, save possibly the insanity; it's just a dumbass thing to do. Hence the fact that half the time something Goes Horribly Wrong; and for the other half (which is far worse) something Goes Horribly Right.

On the other hand, these characters usually retain the audience's sympathy since they are risking only their own lives, not those of some poor Innocent Bystanders or their own children. This puts them in favorable contrast to the Obviously Evil Mad Scientists, who test their Phlebotinum on any innocent humans they can strap down to the table.

Testing things on themselves is actually terrible scientific procedure. Since the scientist has pre-conceived notions on what might happen the results are unreliable and are likely to be discarded. There's also the issue that there can't be a control group due to the testee/tester knowing what they are doing. Many experiments don't tell the testees what they are trying to find out or lie to them in order to find out something different from what the scientists are claiming to find.

The more cartoonish the show, and the crazier the scientist, the more blatant this trope becomes. A Looney Tunes cartoon might very well feature a scientist who, suddenly needing to be giant, just steps over to his array of beakers and retorts, mixes a bunch of funny-colored liquids together and drinks it.

Believe it or not, this was actually standard procedure in many fields of science until fairly recently. Even as late as the 1950's, chemists would create a new compound and ingest it to see what it did. It was not the healthiest of occupations; quite a few scientists did end up killing themselves via experimentation. The Nuremberg Code of 1946, which codified the ethical requirements for human experimentation, forbids any experiments that is highly likely to or will certainly cause death or serious harm to the subjects. However, the ban is explicitly waived if the researcher is experimenting on himself. It's still sort-of common; see the real-life examples down below.

See also No Control Group.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Yu Kaitou in YuYu Hakusho has the power to steal the soul of anyone who breaks the "rules" he sets down for his psychic territory. If he breaks his own rules, then his soul is separated from his body. How did he find this out? Why, he breaks his own rules on purpose, of course, forcing his friends seek out Genkai to find out how to cure him before it's too late, which causes the events which kick off the prologue to the Chapter Black Saga.
  • Shirogane Ryou of Tokyo Mew Mew, upon completing his father's research, promptly tested it on himself. Because he conveniently didn't have the right genetic code, he did not, in fact, become a magical girl... er, boy.
  • Lampshaded in, of all places, the H-manga Asuka And Shizuru. The main villain, a sorcerer of some sort, is defeated in the first chapter and goes on to become the Big Bad of the series by performing experiments on himself. The lampshading comes soon after, wherein it is acknowledged that doing so was an absolutely moronic move on his part because it carried an enormous risk. This comes into play very soon after, when a sex demon eats him alive and enslaves the two girls. Don't worry, they escape the mind control and kick its ass, sending it back to recuperate. It ends with a more optimistic variant of the Bolivian Army Ending, with them preparing to face the enemy again confident that they won't fall for the same tricks twice.
    • Oddly a striking number of H-manga and doujins parody, lampshade and even deconstruct tropes from either the source material or from hentai in general. It's typically done to further the sex (mind control? why of course I'd go crazy and turn the world into my harem) or simply to break the tension by pointing out how weird the plots can get.
  • Attempted in the anime Speed Grapher; however, since the "experiment" involved raping a 15-year-old girl, all for the better that it wasn't carried out.
  • Somewhat used in Pokémon: the Pokémon researcher Bill stuffs himself inside a Kabuto costume to find out what it feels like. See the video games section for the more on-the-spot version from the games.
  • Kiriko resorts to this with the last vaccine in 20th Century Boys, since she is in a hurry and no longer has as many resources as before.
  • Averted in Franken Fran: the eponymous character doesn't test a treatment she developed for aging on herself because, as she herself puts it, "It's just too scary~". For good reason: she based it on telomerase...and cells that have too much of it turn cancerous. Her client, who ordered her killed so she could keep all the research to herself, ends up testing it by self injection...and is ultimately turned into a huge cancerous blob.
  • Kurotsuchi Mayuri of Bleach is obviously his own favorite test subject (he's given himself such bizarre abilities as being able to rip out his own ear and transform it into a kusarigama, and to launch his right arm as a grappling hook)...although based on what is known of his personality, most of his "improvements" were probably perfected on the unwilling first.
    • Mayuri's predecessor as the chief scientist of the Gotei 13, Urahara Kisuke, has also been known to do this. He invented a device that allows a Shinigami to achieve bankai (the final stage of their zanpakuto), which normally takes decades if not centuries, in no more than three days. "No more" because if bankai isn't achieved within that time, the user of the device will die. Urahara immediately used it himself.
  • In Soul Eater, one of the first things we learn about Franken Stein is that he is interested in observation and experimentation, where anything or one could be a test subject — including himself. Stein has, naturally, a bolt through his head and scars all over him.
    • Sort of an odd example though in that we don't actually know what he did to himself. Yes, he has a stitch over his face but aside from that he doesn't look too different from his younger incarnation we see in flashbacks so it at least wasn't anything cosmetic. He's been hailed as a genius meister since before he had the scar and bolt too so it wasn't some kind of power augmentation. So far the bolt and scar on his face only seem to be evidence that he has done this, but the reason behind it has not yet been given.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Shou Tucker experiments on his own body, becoming a monstrous canine chimera, in his attempts to resurrect his daughter Nina.
  • Averted with Dr. Gero in Dragon Ball Z: He turned himself into a cyborg, but his number shows, he was the last one instead of the first.
  • Klaus Von Bogoot from Cyborg 009.
  • Despite using plenty a test subject before and after defecting, this happens to one of the Big Bads in Naruto.
    Sasuke: So your true body... is a scaly, white serpent... You wanted to take over other peoples' bodies so badly, you experimented on your own...

    Comic Books 
  • Testing your own inventions on yourself is the fast track to instant super-villainy in the Marvel universe.
    • Dr. Curt Connors in the Spider-Man comics tries using reptilian DNA to regrow his lost arm. Congratulations, Curt, now you're a violent half-human half-lizard monster. Bravo.
    • Dr. Michael Morbius tries to cure his blood disease by injecting himself with fluids distilled from vampire bats and turns himself into a living vampire in the process.
    • Marine biologist Dr. Lemuel Dorcas was crushed when a machine toppled onto him during a fight against Namor, and to heal himself he injected himself with regenerative starfish tissue. It mutated him into a human/starfish hybrid.
    • In the universe of Spider-Man 1602 Baron Octavius suffered from the bubonic plague. He tried to cure himself by using the blood of octopuses. It worked, but also slowly transformed him into a human/octopus hybrid.
    • In X-Men this is the origin of the original blue fuzzy status of Beast. In the X-Spider-Man crossover novel trilogy Time's Arrow, a future scientist hangs a lampshade on Beast's testing an experimental serum by drinking it. McCoy has the grace to be embarrassed. His original intention was to use it as a means of disguise which he could use to spy for his employer, one which he would reverse when his spying was done. (Yes, in those days Hank had a little problem with ethics.) However, it is true that Hank drinking the serum was a rather dumbass move to make, and Beast even lampshades this himself, when he observes that he didn't have to drink it—keeping it out of his employer's hands aside, it was in the end an act of hubris.
      • Incidentally, this habit went horribly wrong in the Elseworlds Mutant X—one of his projects significantly damaged his intelligence, and he's no longer smart enough to undo the effects.
  • Lampshaded in Blue Beetle''. When Dan Garrett (having recently switched meds) decides to fly Jaime and herself into a volcano the following exchange occurs:
    Jaime: You're sure this thing can survive a trip so far underground?
    Dan: Only one way to find out!
    Jaime: No! No! There are other ways to "find out"! Like tests and experiments!
    Dan: Oh, yeah. Whoops.
  • This is the origin of Batman's sometimes ally sometimes foe Man-Bat. Dr. Kirk Langstrom, a scientist specializing in the study of bats, develops an extract intended to give humans a bat's sonar sense and tests the formula on himself because he is becoming deaf. The extract works, but it has a horrible side effect: it transforms him into a hideous man-sized bat.
  • In G.I. Joe, a dentist tried to develop a new method of pain relief that he decided to test on himself. The resulting personality corruption turned him into the Cobra operative known as Dr. Mindbender.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • Pretty much everyone in Flatliners.
  • In The Fly, the lead character tries teleporting himself, winds up switching heads with a housefly. The remake rationalized this simply enough — he was drunk at the time, having just rowed with his love interest.
    • Mind you, he had already tested the thing with a monkey with no ill effects.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • Norman Osborn's company is about to lose a military contract and go under, thanks to a lack of successful human trials of a performance-enhancing drug. In desperation, he tests the drug on himself — never mind the fact that, if that test were made public, he'd surely lose the contract and the company, and very likely go to prison. It's all kind of moot anyway, as the drug renders him insane. Or rather, more insane.
    • Doc Ock is also this.
  • Similarly, in The Amazing Spider-Man Dr. Connors is developing a serum to regrow limbs using "cross-species genetics". He logically goes through the process of computer simulations and then lab rats and concludes that it is ready for primate trials to determine long-term effects. His Corrupt Corporate Executive of a boss is the one who forces him to bypass his ethics by threatening to test it on unwitting veterans down at the VA if Connors doesn't comply. Cue Connors shooting himself up with lizard goo with predictable comic-book results.
  • The MST3K episode The Projected Man features a scientist who must quickly jury-rig a teleportation experiment to convince his Corrupt Corporate Executive sponsors not to cut his funding. Unfortunately, the ditsy blonde secretary he enlists to helps him teleport botches the procedure and the machine explodes. The scientist then winds up getting his DNA mixed with that of a rat which had died in a previous experiment. Oh, and he also gets the ability to generate lethal electric shocks.
    • He doesn't end up looking like a "rat man" though but rather like, as Crow remarked, "the British Harvey Dent"
    • They had previously teleported a wristwatch, leading Mike to riff "Great, now he'll be half man, half wristwatch."
  • Junior has Dr. Hesse test an experimental drug for reducing miscarriages on himself due to being unable to get funding and test subjects. He ends up pregnant.
  • The Tingler — Vincent Price is researching the physiological aspects of fear, and experiments on himself taking LSD some six years before the hippies appropriated it for their own.
  • Hollow Man and its sequel both have the person who has taken the serum become a serial killer.
    • The original did have extensive animal testing of the invisibility serum, but the head scientist fudged the results and took the serum himself. In that case, the big problem was reversing the invisibility process; the scientist thought that trying it on a human would provide better results and he was the only one willing to do it.
  • Dr. Xavier of X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes tested the x-ray vision eye drops on himself. In both eyeballs.
  • Dr. Cockroach from Monsters vs. Aliens was the result of a scientist testing a procedure to give humans the genetic hardiness of the common roach... and ending up with the head of one as well. For further fun, his PhD is in Dance!
  • Daybreakers: Edward Dalton tests sun exposure plus submergence in water as a cure for vampirism. On himself. Justified in that he's the only vampire around the human refugee hideout when he tests it.
    • Generally unless there are vampire animals around, it's rather difficult to test a cure for vampirism in a method that is not either really stupid (this trope) or morally questionable (Strapped to an Operating Table).
  • One that crosses it with Real Life was Super Size Me where the filmmaker ate nothing but McDonalds for a month and had the results filmed and monitored.
  • One scientist does this out of desperation in Contagion and it actually works.
  • Professor Brody in Cats & Dogs tests his allergy cures on himself. He does it three times that we can see in the movie: the first time, it doesn't work and he breaks out in hives all over; the second time, his nose becomes bulbous but at least he doesn't sneeze; the third time, it's the correct cure.
  • Victor in Upldr, used himself as a test subject on a way to upload and download information directly from the human brain.
  • Beast again, this time in X-Men: First Class... but he deserves a special mention because unlike a lot of scientists who then stop, Daysof Future Past makes clear that he kept doing it.
  • In The Story Of Louis Pasteur, Charbonnet the skeptic injects himself with Pasteur's rabies culture to prove that Pasteur's theories about germs causing disease are wrong. Charbonnet is triumphant when he never gets sick, but this leads Pasteur to a Eureka Moment in which he figures out that weakenened forms of the germ (the sample was three weeks old) can be used in vaccines to combat illness.

    Literature 
  • Older Than Radio: In the first Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet, Watson's friend Stamford explains Holmes' willingness to go this route:
    Stamford: "Holmes is a little too scientific for my tastes — it approaches to cold-bloodedness. I could imagine his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, not out of malevolence, you understand, but simply out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects. To do him justice, I think that he would take it himself with the same readiness. He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge."
    • Barely a page or two later, Holmes happily and unconcernedly stabs himself in the finger to produce the fresh blood he required for a chemical test. Although he does at least put a sticking plaster over the cut, "'for I dabble in poisons a good deal.' He held out his hand as he spoke, and I noticed that it was all mottled over with similar pieces of plaster, and discoloured with strong acids."
  • This is a staple of Invisible Man stories, including the H. G. Wells original. In the Wells story, Griffin did test his process on a cat first, and he did have the excuse that he was kind of crazy. The justification given was that the invisibility process would only work on an albino - which Griffin was.
  • Also turns up in a lot of Time Machine stories, once again, including the H. G. Wells original. Back to the Future is a rare example where the scientist doesn't test the machine himself; but he does put his beloved pet dog in the driver's seat, and himself and his best friend in the path of the speeding vehicle, so he does still seem overly confident. "If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious shit." "WHAT DID I TELL YOU?! EIGHTY EIGHT MILES PER HOUR!"
    • He did intend for himself to be the first human test subject, with the space of time to observe negative side effects in said dog being a few minutes.
    • In The Time Machine he at least has the presence of mind to build a proof of concept device first.
  • In fact, it shows up in a lot H. G. Wells stories, period. Another example is The New Accelerator, in which he tests out a drug on himself that makes him speed up by a factor of several thousand.
  • Another classic example is The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and all the variations thereof, e.g. The Nutty Professor.
  • The Igors of Discworld believe it is most ethical to test all of their latest medical procedures on themselves first. Kind of makes sense though, doesn't it?
  • Harry Potter: Fred and George test sweets they've made that will cause sudden minor illnesses, allowing you to get out of class, on themselves. After they tried out the Nosebleed Nougat, their mother thought they'd had a fight. The worst is gets, though, is painful boils in an area they "don't normally expose to the public", and even that's eventually fixed. They try to test the sweets out on their fellow students (namely, first-years who wouldn't know to be suspicious), but Hermione stops them by threatening to tell their mother about it.
  • The Operator in Duumvirate developed a retrovirus to bestow Transhumanity on whoever received it, and injected himself with it the second it was done synthesizing.
  • Max Barry's Machine Man has Dr. Charles Neumann. An engineer at Better Future, Neumann doesn't design any artificial limbs he wouldn't try out himself.
  • In Robin Cook's Acceptable Risk, Dr. Edward Armstrong creates a new anti-depressant drug and decides to start taking it himself in order to streamline the clinical trial process. His team of researchers agree to take the drug as well. Too bad it makes them start having sleepwalking episodes in which they behave like carnivorous reptiles.
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: In a variation, The Professor Aronnax is willing to sacrifice his own freedom for the rest of his life for the rare chance to discover all the sea’s secret in the Nautilus. Fortunately, he is not willing to sacrifice his friend’s freedom and leads them in their Great Escape.
  • A doctor in J.G. Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur drinks the 'rice-water' from a cholera patient, to demonstrate his confidence in the miasma theory of disease transmission (the theory that diseases are the result of bad air). It doesn't go well.
  • Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead has Dr. Evazam trying to make zombie soldiers, and it goes well for him, but he notices that the fresher the corpse, the smarter and more useful the zombie. Some still have their memories and can talk. So he tries killing random kids to quickly zombify. When this gets him killed, he comes back as a zombie with all his old memories and faculties - he had injected himself with the serum while still alive, and is delighted to find that it worked so well.
  • In Dr Franklins Island this comes up when the titular doctor happily explains that he's going to splice his captives with animals, acting like it's a great adventure and even saying "If I had your young cells, but alas it's too late." In previous trials, splicing captive animals with human genes, initially much of the human material came from him and his assistant.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Quantum Leap, Dr Sam Beckett was pressured to prove his theories or lose funding so he stepped into the project accelerator himself. This experiment wasn't exactly a resounding success.
  • Although House didn't create the drug, he did test one created by his old college rival to combat migraines. He decides to become a sort of drug pincushion: First, using nitroglycerin to give himself a stonking great headache, then trying the drug (which failed) and finally ridding himself of it using LSD.
    • Don't forget the anti-depressants to counteract the LSD.
    • And the six Vicodin he had probably already taken that day. House probably had enough drugs in his system to mildly discomfort Keith Richards.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, in the episode titled "Miri", our heroes are trapped on a planet and slowly dying from a disease that kills all adults. Dr. McCoy has mixed up what may very well be the antidote. Only problem is, he's not sure, and the only way to be sure is to check the Enterprise's computers, which can't be done because the local Creepy Children have stolen the communicators. What to do? Why, wait until Spock leaves and inject yourself, of course!
    • And in Star Trek: First Contact, Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive, flies the test ship himself. Given the post-apocalyptic setting, however, finding a trained pilot may have been very difficult, and it makes a certain amount of sense for the person who knows the ship inside and out to be aboard. At least he had two astronauts from the future to help out.
  • In the third season premiere of Heroes, Mohinder Suresh takes a syringe of Maya's blood/DNA/super-powered-Phlebotinum out onto a dock all by himself and injects it into himself. He gets insect-like super-strength, agility, and wall-climbing ability, but as a side effect appears to be mutating uncontrollably. The entire plot line appears to be a direct reference to the 1986 version of The Fly.
  • The Incredible Hulk TV series. David "Bruce" Banner is performing experiments on himself to try to "tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have." An accidental overdose of gamma radiation interacts with his body chemistry to change him: whenever he gets angry he becomes the Hulk.
    • Averted in The Incredible Hulk (2008 film) where Bruce is trying to find a cure and tests it on a blood sample instead of drinking it himself.
  • In the third season of The 4400, Kevin Burkhoff has discovered promicin, the neurotransmitter that gives the returnees their abilities, and injects himself with it. First he gets all messed up (skin falling off, etc.) but eventually he develops his healing power.
  • Subverted in Power Rangers Dino Thunder where Dr. Anton Mercer tries and tries to perfect a potion to free himself from his Superpowered Evil Side Mesogog, where Mesogog actually succeeds in perfecting the potion and capturing the scientist.
    • Of course, Mercer experimenting on himself was what created Mesogog in the first place.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. In the episode "Daedalus" Emory Erickson, the wheelchair-bound inventor of the transporter, is shown receiving an injection from his daughter— his back and spine are grossly distorted, implying a failed transporter experiment.
  • Semi-averted in an episode of The Saint, where a man with a heart condition wanted to use cryogenics until open heart surgery was commonplace. He did several animal testing, and wanted to start human testing with somebody else, but at the end of the episode, Simon Templar escaped and a heart attack forced the man to enter his machine in emergency.
  • V: The Final Battle. The dust used to kill the Visitors is tested on an alien prisoner. Then while the others are busy arguing about whether they should find a human collaborator to test it on, the Hot Scientist steps into the chamber instead, and survives.
  • One episode of Farscape had an inversion, a Mad Scientist who used to be a guinea pig, or an alien equivalent, before his intellect was enhanced and he killed most of his captors. He did perform further genetic modifications on himself, but tested them on others first, for instance injecting Aeryn with Pilot's DNA in order to isolate the Pilot species' multitasking ability.
  • In the first nationally broadcast season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, as well as the one that came before it, Dr. Laurence "Larry" Erhardt was an involuntary version: Dr. Forrester would test experiments on him (often against his will.) The more interesting ones included cold fusion being created within Erhardt's mouth and making him sweat through his tongue. TV's Frank would later take on this role, but not technically being a scientist he's just a plain Guinea Pig.
  • On LOST, it seems that Daniel Faraday tested his time machine on himself and only recovered from it gradually once near the Island. He also accidentally used it on his lab assistant/girlfriend, unsticking her in time.
  • In Sanctuary The Five all injected a serum based on pure vampire blood directly into their veins. The results were surprisingly beneficial.
  • In Community episode "Social Psychology", Prof. Duncan inadvertently becomes the subject of the Duncan Principle.
  • This happens in several episodes of The Outer Limits. The episode "Double Helix" lampshades it.
    Student: Dude, you injected that stuff that made that fish grow legs into yourself!?
  • On Casualty 1906, Anton Lesser's psychiatrist character asked another doctor to perform an operation on him in order that he could experience the emotions some of the hospital's patients were going through prior to an early 20th century operation.
  • In Helix, Doctor Hiroshi Hatake hides glowing silver irises behind brown-tinted contacts, suggesting some interesting side projects apart from the unregulated viral research Arctic Biosystems is conducting.
  • The MythBusters often use themselves as test subjects for their experiements. That said, the experiments they run in this manner have to be approved by their insurance company in advance, and there's always someone keeping tabs on the test subject(s) (if not another one of the hosts, then a producer or other member of the production team), avoiding at least some of the pitfalls of this trope.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • The Progenitors from Genius The Transgression have a whole transhumanist philosophy centered around this trope.
    • The trope is also enforced by the game's Karma Meter: self-modification is a Transgression, but running risky and dangerous experiments on human test subjects (even willing ones) is a worse one.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has (predictably enough) a Grim Dark version in the shape of Fabius Bile, who not only experiments on others, but is said to have used his own body as his most extensive testing ground.
  • One of the cards in the Magic: The Gathering set "Innistrad" is Delver of Secrets who is apparently one of these according to the flavor text.

    Video Games 
  • Scientist William Birkin from Resident Evil 2 injects himself with his experimental monster-making formula, which not only mutates him into an unrecognizable, gigantic, grotesque monster — but also drives him to impregnate his 10-year old daughter (Ewww). He had a better excuse than most, mind you — Umbrella goons had just repeatedly shot him in the chest. Injecting the serum was a last-ditch attempt to keep himself alive/fuck those goons over. The resulting abomination was mostly, if not entirely mindless aside from its considerable killing expertise.
    • Alexia Ashford did the same thing, though only because she'd already messed around with her father and needed a new subject.
  • The Big Bad of Cave Story manages to produce a highly concentrated form of the game's Psycho Serum. When you confront him, he explicitly states that his new invention will drive him insane before testing it on himself. Though, in his defense, he ends up going One-Winged Angel multiple times and is completely lucid by the final battle, so it must have worked out for him.
  • In Pokémon Red and Blue, the Pokémon researcher Bill accidentally combines himself with a Clefairy while working on a Pokémon teleportation device. Luckily for him, it's a fairly quick fix: the player just has to run the machine while he's inside so he can return to human form. Seems to be an homage to The Fly.
  • Professor Hojo in Final Fantasy VII. When the player party (some of its members being his former test subjects) finally confronts him, he injects himself with The Virus, claiming that he has, once more, succumbed to his desire for knowledge. As you'd expect from the dad of the Trope Namer, he pulls a One-Winged Angel afterward.
  • Dr Muto has one as its protagonist, capable of collecting DNA from various creatures to mutate himself into various beasts.
  • Implied in Starcraft II. If you choose to help Selendis for the "Safe Haven"/"Haven's Fall" mission, Dr. Ariel Hanson will swear to find a cure for the Zerg nanovirus before the heroes can destroy the colony. Partway through the mission, Captain Horner calls you, reporting that Dr. Hanson has locked herself in the lab. After the mission, Hanson is found to be suffering the effects of the Zerg nanovirus (major Body Horror and Nightmare Fuel involved), and she has to be killed before she can do any damage. Given that this doesn't happen if you choose to help Dr. Hanson by protecting the colony, it's implied that she injected herself not only with the supposed cure, but with the nanovirus it's supposed to be effective against. That, or she had an accident brought on by her haste; either way, she locked herself in the lab to protect the rest of the crew.
  • Portal 2 reveals that Cave Johnson, the lunatic founder of Aperture Science, was not above testing his inventions on himself. This resulted in his death by Conversion Gel (moon dust) poisoning. Somewhat related, when his recruitment of street bums as test subjects had less than ideal results, he began encouraging his own employees to test the company's products, which had a negative effect on morale and retention. The next evolution of this seems to have occurred only after his death, with "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day".
  • Done by Dr Nitrus Brio in Crash Bandicoot (1996) at the end of the boss battle. Before that, he spends time throwing the beakers at you. The red beakers, properly mixed, become highly volatile, exploding when smashed, while the green ones release semi-alive brains that chase after you. Naturally drinking a mixture of both turns him into a giant green muscleman.
  • In League of Legends, Singed, Mundo, and Heimerdinger are all scientists who have experimented on themselves, and as a result have gone terribly disfigured. Singed is now covered in burns and most of his body is wrapped up in bandages, but he has also been strengthened by self-testing. Mundo, although he used to be human, is now a giant, purple Frankensteinesque monster who talks in the third person. Heimerdinger, in the effort to become smarter, expanded his brain so much that now his entire head is shaped like one.
  • In Team Fortress 2, The Medic apparently did this during the Halloween 2013 update, replacing his entire head with that of his pet dove, Archimedes. Exclusive lines for wearing the item reveal he isn't quite sure whether this is awesome, or whether he regrets it. Even earlier, though, he was implied to have performed open-heart surgery on himself so he could utilize the Übercharge function he designed. The Engineer (Dell Conagher) did this as well, testing out his new robotic hand design by willingly chopping one of his hands off.
  • In Bioshock 2, a Brute Splicer in the diner at Pauper's Drop turns out to have been Leo Hartwig, a scientist for Sinclair Solutions who put together a cocktail of strength- and speed-boosting plasmids and gene tonics and injected it into himself, turning him into one of the first Brutes. You find this out after listening to an audio log found on his corpse of him taking the serum and Hulking Out.
  • In the end of Vessel, Arkwright decides to use the Accelerator on himself, believing that as the creator of the Fluros and indirectly responsible for the havoc they've caused, it's his duty to take the first step into the next phase of human evolution. He runs the machine with himself inside and becomes a Transhuman made from protoplasm.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation researches often test their artefacts of their own accord, although they prefer to leave the more dangerous ones to the expendable "D Class" prisoners.
  • Whateley Universe: A recurring problem with the devisers and gadgeteers of Whateley Academy. Hazmat was lucky. All his treatment did was burn all his hair off his head. Then there are the Mad Scientist types like Jobe, who uses other students as his guinea pigs.

    Western Animation 
  • One of the enemies of Darkwing Duck did this: Reginald Bushroot, Ph. D., finds his funding cut. He tries his experimental procedure on a duck and ends up with a mutant plant-duck. The duck is, of course, himself. Once the science lab bullies ridicule him in front of the girl of his dreams, then the body count starts.
  • In an episode of Justice League, Batman wrangles this sort of confession out of Cheetah while a "captive" of the Injustice Gang. She was desperate and didn't have the funding to conduct controlled experiments, so...
    • Batman: The Animated Series (and the entire DCAU, for that matter) started with an episode where a professor drank serum with bat DNA and became the Man-Bat.
    • In Batman Beyond, Dr. Able Cuvier is the inventor of modern splicing technology — and like his forerunners above, used himself as the first test subject. Funnily enough, while Cuvier's splicing is easily reversible and completely painless, he's the only one of these guys to be Hoist by His Own Petard.
  • Archer:
    Krieger: I call it "Formula K."
    Archer: And it turns you temporarily gay?
    Krieger: Dunno. I just started human testing. By dosing Danny the intern's coffee.
    Danny: Danny's definitely feeling something!
    Archer: I'll pass.
    Krieger: Suit yourself. (pops a pill) Just means more for me and Danny.
  • Mocked during Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, when Victor tells Doctor Jekyll only an idiot would use himself as the test subject for an untested formula.

    Real Life 
  • Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine.
  • The creator of LSD, Albert Hoffman, took some himself after a handful of inconclusive animal trials. From his lab notebook:
    Last Friday ... I had to interrupt my laboratory work in the middle of the afternoon and go home, because I was seized with a feeling of great restlessness and mild dizziness. At home, I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant delirium, which was characterized by extremely excited fantasies. In a semiconscious state, with my eyes closed (I felt the daylight to be unpleasantly dazzling), fantastic visions of extraordinary realness and with an intense kaleidoscopic play of colors assaulted me. After about two hours this condition disappeared.
  • The inventor of cardiac catheterization did the first one to himself, with an x-ray to prove it. He even tied his assistant to a table to prevent him from interfering after everyone told him the procedure was insane. He survived the procedure and eventually ended up with the Nobel Prize.
  • Colonel John Paul Stapp (M.D., Ph.D) was an aeronautics expert involved in testing the limitations of the human body in high speed flight at the dawn of the jet age. Due to the lack of crash test dummies that could accurately model the human body or report on how they felt, Col. Stapp offered his services as a substitute. In 1947 the conventional wisdom that forces greater than 18G would prove fatal. After numerous tests in rocket powered contraptions Col. Stapp shattered this barrier and eventually reached 46.2G, a record which stands to this day as the highest g-forces ever voluntarily experienced by a human being.
    • Predictably, Stapp suffered repeated and various injuries including broken limbs, ribs, detached retina, and miscellaneous traumas which eventually resulted in lifelong lingering vision problems caused by permanently burst blood vessels in his eyes.
  • Isaac Newton was a real-life example of this trope. In addition to looking into the sun through a telescope, he also forced blood to his head until he passed out, and jammed a bodkin behind his eye to check if squashing it would make what he saw go blurry by changing the distance between the back of the eyeball and confirm it was a lens at the front.
  • Giles Brindley, inventor of early drug treatments for impotence. Link may be NSFW.note  Link may also be disturbing to male readers.
  • Troy Hurtubise, quite possibly the only living Mad Scientist, cheerfully tests his inventions on himself. The more notable of these being: Project Grizzly, a bear-proof suit (The bears were too intimidated by its appearance, and walked away. Stood up to a biker gang quite well though); Fire Paste, a light, spreadable material that hardens into an insulating shell (He put a mask on the back of his skull made of the paste and had a few thousand degrees of blowtorch pointed at it); and the "Trojan" Armor, an approximately forty-pound armor suit with various useful attachments (So far, Troy has found no one actually willing to shoot him while he is wearing the suit).
  • Pellagra, a disease caused by vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency, used to be thought of as contagious until a particular scientist made the discovery that it was, well, just a vitamin deficiency, when he noticed that most cases happened in poor areas with people grouped tightly together. While that does obviously make it seem contagious, a closer look revealed that younger children, with weaker immune systems, seemed to be free of the condition. The answer was because they got supplies of milk for growth while others did not. However, where this trope comes into play is when the doctor in question published his findings in addition to the results of an experiment of treating test subjects with pellagra with niacin-rich foods. He was rejected because the scientific community refused to believe that pellagra just COULDN'T be infectious. So he, his wife, and twelve additional colleagues obtained the snot, vomit, feces, urine, sweat, saliva, and blood of pellagra victims, created pills of them, and swallowed them all. That proved their point.
  • In order to prove that Irukandji syndrome was caused by the Irukandji jellyfish (and no, wiseacres, the syndrome and the jellyfish did not at that time have the same name...), Jack Barnes caught one and deliberately stung himself, his son, and a lifeguard who happened to get the wrong shift that day. "Note the outstanding Darwin potential demonstrated."
  • Meet Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, AKA Professor Popsicle. He believes that the best way to study the effects of hypothermia on the human body is to subject himself to it. Repeatedly. By doing things like falling into frozen lakes, fully dressed.
  • Dr. Stephane Huberty has myasthenia gravis, a condition too rare to get much attention from researchers. He found out about a possible vaccine, only tested on animals, and set up a company to produce it. But clinical trials were several years and millions of dollars away — so he injected himself. Apparently he's feeling better. (The article lists a few more examples of this trope, not all encouraging.)
  • In a humorous example, writer A.J. Jacobs has become known for the single gimmick behind most of his books: live some unconventional way for a period of time, then write about it. His experiments include trying to live every word of the Bible literally, trying to follow George Washington's favorite code of etiquette, and outsourcing every aspect of his life to India. The results are, predictably, hilarious.
  • The Nuremberg Code, formulated after the trials of the concentration camp "doctors," expressly forbids any form of human experimentation unless the doctors in question experiment on themselves - and treats even that exception as being ethically and morally dubious. No country has ever adopted the Nuremberg Code in its entirety.
    • However, all countries did adopt the Declaration of Helsinki, as mandated by the WHO, which is more practical and easier to work with for scientists and doctor.
  • August Beir experimented with spinal anesthesia by getting his assistant August Hidebrandt to inject him with cocaine and kick him in the shins.
  • Henry Cavendish, an 18th century physicist/chemist who did pioneering research on the nature of electricity, measured the strength of electric currents by shocking himself and estimating the amount of pain.
  • In 1982, Australian physicians Robin Warren and Barry Marshall were certain that gastric ulcers (which are extremely painful and can easily be fatal if untreated) were caused by Helicobacter pylori, a massive shift from the prevailing opinion that stress, spicy food, and excess stomach acid caused ulcers. To finally prove the hypothesis, Marshall consumed H. pylori from a Petri dish and developed a gastric ulcer five days later. Marshall and Warren, who developed a non-invasive breath test for the presence of H. pylori, received the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
  • Dr. James Young Simpson discovered the general anesthetic chloroform in 1847 when he and his colleges were sniffing their way through the chemist's catalog on gases (they were looking for an anesthetic that did not irritate the lungs or explode, like ether). It was a miracle that the dosage he took didn't kill him.
  • Sucralose (the artifical sweetener Splenda) was invented when a researcher mistook his supervisor's instructions. He was asked to "test" the new compound, but he mistakenly thought he was supposed to "taste" it.
  • Hugh Herr lost both his lower legs to hypothermia in a mountain climbing accident. He responded by pursuing a career in academia and eventually became a professor of biomechantronics at MIT. He tries out new bionic limbs on himself as well as volunteers.


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