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Guinea Pig Family

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"Oh, yeah, I figured it out; you did it again! Two years ago, it was your wife; this time, you used your own daughter and her dog to transmute a talking chimera! You can only do so much with animals, after all! It's much easier when you start with a human; isn't that right?!"
Edward Elric, confronting Shou Tucker, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

(Mad) Scientists have a recurring problem when it comes to finding human test subjects. But rather than kidnap people off the street, or experiment on himself, this one chooses to use his family as guinea pigs.

Maybe it's because family members, having grown up on stories of his science, are easily convinced to volunteer. Perhaps they are The Caretaker of someone who's Delicate and Sickly and the whole point of his experiments is to find a cure. Or most horrifying of all, he decides that big bro is expendable, or he can make more of Timmy the old fashioned way (cloning, of course!). For some reason, most scientists rarely use their parents as test subjects, though such testing can travel down family lines as a tradition.

The results run the gamut. The family member may be given super powers, cured of an illness, mutated into a horrible monster (which, if this is the intention, often counts as a Moral Event Horizon), or killed (this last one will generally turn a normal scientist into the mad variety). Depending on circumstances they may also turn evil or stay good, and if their family member is of the opposite alignment they might rebel. If this testing is done to more than one family member, it becomes a natural evolution to Secret Project Refugee Family (sometimes without the Refugee part).

Not to Be Confused with Caviidae, the taxonomical family of guinea pigs.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Grisha Jaeger in Attack on Titan apparently did this with his son Eren. It's unclear as to how much of an experiment it was, but given that he had full access to his and Carla's adoptive daughter Mikasa (who is basically a level above Eren in almost every possible way) but doesn't seem to have done anything with her, he seems to have decided to keep it in the family. Confirmed later, when Eren recovers from his Trauma-Induced Amnesia...
  • Baccano!'s Chane Laforet was actually born as the result of an experiment — namely, her Mad Scientist father Huey was curious as to whether or not his immortality could be inherited. It's not exactly known if he continues to experiment on her (besides the obvious emotional manipulation), but Huey does refer to her as a guinea pig on a regular basis.
  • Bleach:
    • Mayuri Kurotsuchi didn't have a family to use as guinea pigs, so he made one. This doesn't stop him from grabbing unwilling test subjects (usually he does this when he finds someone that already has an unusual ability, something that he'd like to find out how to enhance and/or replicate...without giving a damn whether they survive the process), but it seems that his two favorite things to experiment on are his daughter Nemu and himself.
    • Not his family, but Mayuri's (less) Evil Counterpart in the Espada, Szayel Apporo Granz, modified and created his Fraccion (Mooks) so that, if he was injured, they could regenerate him... by him eating them. However, Szayel does play this straight — he has an older brother, Yylfordt, whom Szayel conducted his research on without Yylfordt knowing. Of these, Szayel seems most proud of surveillance bugs placed inside Yylfordt to where Szayel refers to his brother as a "box" that was opened through his death.
  • In all variants of Bubblegum Crisis (the comic, the anime, the reboot), Professor Stingray experimented on his daughter Sylia. Some cases it was because his family was sick, other cases because his family was just available.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
  • The Code Geass novels seem to take this route, a bit: Nunnally's hinted at, but never explained in the anime, psychic powers are a result of experimentation with Geass while she was in the womb, and her psychosomatic blindness was an attempt to get her to use those abilities. For the record, they seem to be reception-only touch telepathy and some sort of sensory ability. Considering the number of elements added to the second series from other spin-offs - specifically, Lost Colour's Knight Of Nine, and Cornelia's two wing-girls who join the Valkyrie squadron after her disappearance — it's not completely impossible that it was added into the background. Just look through the two seasons and count how often Nunnally seems to be able to detect something that she shouldn't really be able to.
  • Cyborg 009:
    • Ivan Whiskey was experimented on by his Mad Scientist father Gamo and turned into Cyborg 001, a powerful psychic. Because he was converted into a cyborg when he was just a few months old, he'll be stuck in the body of an infant forever. In the 2001 adaptation this is also a case of Love Makes You Evil, as Gamo first converted Ivan in order to save his life but later left him in the "care" of Black Ghost...
    • If one includes the 2007 adaptation of Skull Man, then Black Ghost is actually Joe/009's father, though neither is aware of this.
  • In Deadman Wonderland Sorae Igarashi originally planned to raise her son Ganta as a test subject for her institute. However, after giving birth, her maternal instinct caused a Heel Realization and she sent Ganta away while choosing Shiro as a replacement.
  • The Lvellie family in D.Gray-Man. It has been implied that many of these Lvellie family members died through becoming Fallen Ones. Hevlaska is hinted at being one of the first girls 'offered' to the cause over a century ago.
  • Franken Fran has Fran turn her "little sister" Veronica into one of these over their differing opinions on life (i.e. Veronica thinks it's better to let someone die than subject them to a Fate Worse than Death).
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Shou Tucker, afraid that lack of results would strip him of funding, tested out his alchemy on his family including his young daughter, intentionally mutating them into crude and imperfect chimera, which led to their tragic demise (we later realize that he did the same thing to his wife two years prior). This event became a defining motivator for the protagonists' journey throughout the work.
  • Professor Watabe of Psychic Academy treats his daughter Mew like this. It's so extreme that he never bothered to name her; Mew Baurra is the first two pieces of her Aura Code, not an actual name. She is technically nameless until Ai arbitrarily gives her a name... when she's about 16. Watabe's experiments grant her considerable power — at the cost of her powers being uncontrollable while in certain mental states, capable of damaging her own health if she uses them too much, and the sprinklers that went off whenever she lost control during experiments and set the room on fire gave her a crippling fear of rain.
  • Soul Eater:
    • Crona was the subject of their mother, Medusa's, experiments with Black Blood to create a new Kishin. When she decided the experiment failed she planned to abandon Crona until finding a different use for them, then giving Crona another shot at their original purpose.
    • This trope is comically mentioned at the end of the manga when we find out Stein and Marie are having a baby; Stein describes it as getting another guinea pig. Hopefully he was just kidding...
  • Graham in Superior used his daughter Rossi in what's initially described as an experiment to create a universal poison antidote. It sort of worked. (Later, we get a much more alarming description of his goal: to transform a human into a monster without killing her in the process. He actually succeeded, although since Rossi doesn't suffer from the bodily degeneration common in transformed humans, she can easily pass as human.)
  • One of Rumiko Takahashi's short stories, called "The Golden Gods of Poverty", involved a boy named Sakae whose parents kept experimenting on him as part of their "get rich quick" schemes.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Vandal Savage, an immortal Cro-Magnon, sires children so that he can harvest their organs at a later date. He's immortal, but conditionally so.
    • Batman:
      • One origin story for Mr. Freeze has him experimenting with cryogeny on his deathly ill wife to keep her alive until a cure was found for her illness. It could have worked, if not for outer influence.
      • New 52 retcons the Scarecrow's origin into this, with his father basically being a Generation Xerox of him that used his own son in very traumatic psychology experiments for military purposes.
      • One-shot villain the Sportsman was Martin Mantle, Jr., son of a notorious sports scientist. As a kid, Martin was not interested in sports, which annoyed his father. Mantle, Sr. developed a serum to improve his son's stamina and physical abilities and he used it on Martin against his will. The serum's effect caused Martin to become a top athlete, but as an adult, it started to kill him. Unable to locate his father to take revenge, Martin took revenge against society by adopting the costumed identity of Sportsman and killing top sports personalities.
    • Timber Wolf of Legion of Super-Heroes gained his animal-like abilities from experiments conducted on the fictional element Zuunium by his father, Dr. Mar Londo.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Michael Van Patrick of Avengers: The Initiative was the great-grandson of one of the researchers who worked on the original Super Soldier project that created Captain America. His great-grandfather discovered that it was possible to raise a human being to become a super-soldier without the Super Serum or Vita-Ray treatment through a specialized diet and exercise regimen. The government didn't see fit to use this research or even classify it, since it would take a lifetime of dedication to create a soldier this way. Michael's father used the research to start an organic food business and put Michael through the regimen. This did indeed make Michael into a natural super-soldier-level human. Unfortunately for Michael, this got him into trouble when his relation to the researcher was discovered. The authorities believed that his peak physical abilities were due to the super-serum. This led to him losing his athletic achievements since the school believed he had doped himself, Michael being drafted into the Initiative program, being killed off in a training accident, and then having his body desecrated by being cloned multiple times.
    • Fantastic Four: By accident, though. Reed Richards took his best friend, his fiancee, and her kid brother for the first flight in an untested rocket with no shielding through cosmic rays, resulting in them getting superpowers.
    • Black Bolt and Maximus of The Inhumans were exposed to the mutagenic Terrigen Mists by their parents Agon and Rynda as part of experiments to see if very early exposure to the Mists would make them Superpower Lottery winners. Black Bolt, exposed while in utero, more or less is one. Maximus, exposed as an infant, is powerful, but not ridiculously so. On the downside, Black Bolt cannot speak without unleashing the full devastating effects of his power and Maximus may or may not be congenitally insane.
    • Mimic, an early X-Men villain/member, got his powers from either a.) his father experimenting on him to develop superpowers or b.) his father experimenting on him to activate his mutant powers.

    Fan Works 
  • Shown in the Facing the Future Series, where Jack, now knowing of Danny's secret, won't tear him apart molecule by molecule, but does want his help in testing new ghost gadgets.
  • This serves as part of the backstory for Hamuko in Persona 3 Momento Umbrae where, as a child, she was constantly subjected to Shadow-related experiments by her Evil Uncle as means to force a natural Persona potential out of her. Right after he had taken her away from her parents when she was born and faking her death, no less.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Hulk, Bruce's origin story is expanded upon: the Freak Lab Accident doesn't give him superpowers by itself, but triggers a mutation caused by his father experimenting on him when he was a baby. There was also some overlap with Professor Guinea Pig, as his father had initially been experimenting on himself, and some of the resulting mutations were passed on to Bruce. This trope is also mildly deconstructed, insofar as David is torn between treating Bruce as a test subject and trying to find a cure for him and seeing Bruce as the proof of what he tried to accomplish.
  • In the horror film The Manster, it's revealed that besides the American journalist, the Mad Scientist used his brother and his wife as his first experiments. Neither turn out well at all.
  • In Peeping Tom, Mark was used as a guinea pig for his father's psychological experiments on fear and the nervous system. Mark's father would study his son's reaction to various stimuli, such as lizards he put on his bed and would film the boy in all sorts of situations, even going as far as recording his son's reactions as he sat with his mother on her deathbed. He kept his son under constant watch and even wired all the rooms so that he could spy on him.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera has the Repo Man try to save his wife this way... she dies. Of course, Rotti had a hand in that failure.
  • The scientist Will Rodman in Rise of the Planet of the Apes uses an experimental drug on his father, who has Alzheimer's. Poor John Lithgow.
  • In the backstory to Scanners, Dr. Paul Ruth created a tranquilizer drug for pregnant women, and the first test subject was his own pregnant wife. Everything seemed to be okay, so he put the drug into circulation, and they used it again the second time she got pregnant. Little did he realize that this would create a Bizarre Baby Boom, of which his own sons were the most bizarre.

  • The Igors in Discworld tend towards this, unsurprisingly. When an Igor says that he learned surgery on his father's knee, he is being very literal. (Generally, however, they practice on themselves.)
  • The Kuruoka family in Fate/strange fake. The parents were mages who heard of Zouken Matou's Crest Worm-based method to manipulate Magic Circuits, and decided that though the technique had promise, the old man wasn't even close to reaching its potential— so they developed Black Magic-based bacteria and injected them upon their young daughter, turning her into a mana battery at the cost of rendering her almost brain-dead. They planned to use the magic to summon the first Emperor of China as their Servant... but the Grail instead chose the little girl as the Master of Rider, and their treatments instead served as a vector to summon a literal incarnation of pestilence.
  • Gladiator explores some of the consequences of this trope, as Abednego Danner injects his pregnant wife with his Super Serum, giving their Proto-Superhero child Hugo Super Strength and Nigh-Invulnerability.
  • Heroics: This is Cass's backstory. Her father repeatedly conducted experiments on her, often very painfully.
  • Mentioned as background in Masked Dog by Raymond Obstfeld, about a criminal used to test an experimental drug who escapes after murdering the scientist who gave it to him. It's mentioned that the scientist in question used his own son in a study on predicting behavior. Every action was videotaped for years until the day his son ended the experiment by sticking a .22 in his mouth and pulling the trigger.
  • In The Mortal Instruments, Valentine experimented on his own children in the womb to create better Shadowhunters. He infused Jonathan/Sebastian with demon blood, which made him horrifically strong but had the unfortunate side-effects of making him soulless and Jocelyn depressed. To make her feel better he gave her angel blood, not knowing she was pregnant with Clary at the time...
  • Petaybee: Apparently, Granddaddy Shongili meddled enough with his own genetics to produce at least one selkie (Sean) a few generations later. Sean's kids are naturally born selkies as well.
  • Sandpaper Kiss: The press and the narrator keep on speculating why Dr. Faulkner would experiment on (and possibly kill) his own wife and daughter, and the public believes that he's a monster. Eventually, Mark is the only person who investigates close enough to realize that Faulkner was actually trying to cure Lucretia.
  • In This Immortal, the Absent-Minded Professor/borderline Evilutionary Biologist (he euthanized the last dog on earth) George Emmet wanted to experiment on his children... but his wife put her foot down.
  • In John Wyndham's Trouble with Lichen, a scientist who has created an anti-aging drug uses it on his children, telling them it's a vitamin shot. They take it surprisingly calmly when he finally tells them the truth, though in all fairness he did have the good grace to conduct more conventional tests first.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Leonard's mother, a psychologist, apparently treated her children this way. Needless to say, it practically drove Leonard crazy.
    Leonard: Oh my God, at sleepaway camp, my cabin was called "control group"!
  • Doctor Who: Winifred Gillyflower from "The Crimson Horror" used her own daughter Ada to develop an anti-toxin to the poison produced by Mr. Sweet, a prehistoric parasite. The experiments left her blinded and badly scarred, which prompts Ada to exact revenge by killing Mr. Sweet.
  • Simon and River Tam of Firefly are a more benign version of this as it was part of being The Caretaker and of course she knew perfectly well that he would have to learn on the job because getting outside help was impossible, and he obviously hated it very much. One hesitates to put this here as it was clearly not the same sort of thing as the more sinister examples and there were no other options. But the description above does say that this would fit.
  • Possibly averted in an episode of Frasier, in which Niles and Frasier rediscover their psychologist mother's old research notes and discover that two experimental subjects called Frasier and Niles were subjected to extensive experiments when "pre-juvenile". Hester Crane also appears to note that "Niles" was by far the more intelligent of the two and had the higher IQ. Their father lets them bicker about this for a while, then casually informs his sons that Frasier and Niles were her two favorite lab rats, named after her sons.
  • In an early episode of Fringe, it is strongly implied that Walter experimented on his son Peter as a child, though this hasn't been revisited since.
  • Kevin Fawkes implants the Quicksilver gland in his Boxed Crook brother Darien's head, turning Darien into The Invisible Man.
  • On Lost, Juliet tests her fertility research on her sister Rachel, who is infertile due to chemotherapy. However, it pays off for Rachel when the research works and she ends up getting the baby she always wanted.
  • In The Munsters, Grandpa, being one to delve into both magic and science, works on his share of inventions and innovations in his Mad Scientist Laboratory beneath the house, mostly in a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme, with him testing them around his household. Unfortunately, his experiments tend to range from Gone Horribly Wrong to Gone Horribly Right.
    Lily: Oh, Grandpa! Why can't you experiment on white mice like any other normal Mad Scientist?!
  • In the Tales of the Unexpected episode "Royal Jelly" (adapted from a short story by Roald Dahl), a beekeeper doses his frail baby daughter with royal jelly to make her thrive, He'd previously dosed himself with the same substance to enhance his fertility enough to conceive her, and is thrilled that it seems to work even better on the infant, who gains weight unnaturally fast...
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Mute", Ilse Nielsen's parents Holger and Fanny made her the subject of an experiment from the time that she was born: to induce telepathic ability in her by never speaking to her. Three other German couples — the Werners, the Elkenbergs, and the Kalders — did the same thing with their children. All of their attempts were successful, with Ilse being the most powerful telepath of the group.
  • Two and a Half Men: Walden's mother Robin, a primatologist, raised Walden and a baby gorilla at the same time as an experiment, even going so far as to freeze Walden's embryo to make sure he and the gorilla were born at the same time. Walden does not take the revelation well; he thought "Magilla" was an imaginary friend, and was so traumatized when the gorilla was taken away that he believed he would be sent to the jungle if he misbehaved. All things considered, Walden turned out relatively well, and as Alan points out, compared to his own mother, Robin was Mother of the Year.
  • Warehouse 13: Paracelsus tested his Philosopher's Stone on his brother (the Count of St. Germain), sister-in-law, and nephew. The brother didn't seem to mind being made immortal, but his nephew got stuck as a teenager for nearly 500 years.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ravenloft: The first human to be subjected to Frantisek Markov's deranged surgical experiments was his own wife, Ludmilla.

    Video Games 
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin: Caulder/Stolos' family were an experiment in human cloning and his son Cyrus a (scrapped) Guinea Pig for Grand Theft Me on top of it.
  • BlazBlue: Relius Clover turned his daughter into a mechanical super weapon and then used the data to turn his wife into an even more powerful machine.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth was implanted with Jenova cells while still in the womb by his father, Hojo.
  • Galerians: Two computer scientists suspect that the A.I. they created to run their city is plotting genocide and intends to kill them, so in desperation they implant anti-A.I. programs in their children's brains as a failsafe. The procedure is invasive judging from the two kids' bandaged heads, and may factor into the psychic link they develop — the game doesn't spell it out.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Big Boss is revealed to have been brought back to life after his fight with Snake in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake via organ transplants from his biological children, Liquid and Solidus Snake.
  • Portal: Aperture Science eventually resorted to using its own employees as test subjects, not because of any malicious intent, but simply because its star had fallen so low that it was barely hovering above sea level. And this was after a period where they used homeless people off the street. That's because when they were using hobos, they were still paying their test subjects. (Sixty bucks a head, and a whole twenty minutes in the breakroom if you survive the test! Wow!) Whether or not the employees are still getting paid or if they're just under some kind of contractual obligation whether the paycheck is coming in or not isn't made clear. It does explicitly mention that the CEO isn't exempt; he's the guy who got to discover that if you grind moon rocks into powder and put it in Mobility Gel base, it's poisonous.
  • Resident Evil (Remake): Lisa Trevor's father George Trevor was the architect who designed the Arklay mansion. When he discovers the mansion's true purpose, he is killed by Spencer and kidnaps his wife and daughter to be used as guinea pigs for Umbrella's viral experiments. The mother died, but Lisa managed to survive everything that was injected into her, which drove her insane and made her invulnerable.
  • Shin Megami Tensei II: Mekata was forced to use his daughter Hiroko as a surrogate mother in the Messiah project because his team needed a virgin to give birth to artificial Messiah Aleph.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time: Played with. Fayt and Maria were experimented on by their parents and subsequently given reality-bending superpowers. Their parents are not malicious in nature, however, as they were trying to give them the abilities to save the universe from being destroyed. They also explicitly state that they used their own children as they felt it would be wrong to ask another person's child to shoulder their sins.
  • Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2: Heinrich von Raitenau uses his own children as Sinners: Living incubators for the man-made pathogen GUILT.

  • Brother Complex: Frank Drake is a sympathetic example as he used his ill daughter Rose as one after she took an overdose of pills in response to Jack's departure for his studying abroad. She only had hours left to live otherwise. He then made a deal with the higher-ups where Rose would volunteer for testing, and she would get to live a normal life as best she could as long as she and Frank cooperate.
  • Girl Genius: Wilhem Sturmvoraus did use kidnapped girls as his test subjects, at first. But as he started running out of appropriate subjects, and continued to fail in his goal of bringing back Lucrezia, he eventually turned to his own daughter.
  • Narbonic: As though Helen's mother weren't evil enough, it's implied that Narbon Sr. may have created more than one clone of herself because after all, every test needs a control. Helen herself sort of gets this, too, as even after hooking up with Dave, she runs all manner of tests on him (and, no doubt, their daughter).

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: while such experiments are disturbingly common, the most notable example is an inversion: when the Bell Witch dunked an infant Nacht into the Erebos, not only was it a magical experiment rather than a scientific one, Kate wasn't her child at all; she'd just kidnapped some kid, figuring that dropping her into a place of utter darkness would kill her, but when she not only survived but displayed power over the Erebos, she adopted the child and used her in her schemes.

    Western Animation 
  • Johnny Test: Johnny frequently tests his older sisters' experiments and inventions, either for some sort of payment or because it's something he wants to use.
  • This is the explanation Dr. Paradigm gives as to how the Street Sharks came about — that their evil scientist father mutated them into shark/human hybrids. Subverted in that the heroes all know full well that Paradigm is full of shit and that he was the one who mutated them.
  • Richard Impossible of The Venture Bros. at the very least uses his brother-in-law, whose skin ignites on fire when in contact with air, as a power source. Also, Dr. Venture uses his sons basically as walking organ banks and had dozens of clones of them, until all the clones were destroyed.

    Real Life 
  • Not uncommon for researchers in such areas as child psychology and child language acquisition. (They may also acquire experiment subjects otherwise and add the researchers' own offspring to boost the sample size, as some researches require large groups and control groups.) Of course, truth is usually less scary than fiction (although it still isn't always harmless).
  • The use of cowpox to "vaccinate" (the word is derived from the Latin for "cow") against smallpox was pioneered by Edward Jenner, who experimented on his gardener's eight-year-old son. Not quite his own family, but close. Once the boy had recovered from cowpox he repeatedly inoculated the poor boy with smallpox in order to demonstrate his immunity. The only reason Jenner is remembered as a hero rather than a madman is because it worked.
  • Hanaoka Seishū's wife went blind after testing the early variants of her husband's anaesthetic. Allegedly, both her and his mother volunteered, along with a few other relatives.
  • Hungarian psychologist László Polgár believed that geniuses were made rather than born, and his motivation for marrying and having children was partly to test this theory. He immersed his three daughters, Zsuzsa,note  Zsófia, and Judit, in competitive chess from a very young age; all three are widely considered among the greatest female chess players in the history of the game (with Juditnote  and Zsuzsa often named as the two greatest).