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Andrologia. 1997 Nov-Dec;29(6):351-5.

Rejuvenation in the early 20th century.

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  • 1Department of Urology, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Germany.


The first theoretical reflections concerning the relation of hormone production with the ageing process stemmed from Charles Edouard Brown-Séquard (1817 1894). At the age of 72 years he experimented on himself with an injection of animal testicular extract. The Viennese physiologist Eugen Steinach (1861 1944) gained world-wide acknowledgement for his theory of 'autoplastic' treatment of ageing. He deduced that after vasoligation, an increased incretory hormonal production would ensue following the cessation of the secretory output of the gonads. The first operation was performed in 1918 and resulted in a vasectomy boom over the next two decades. The Russian Serge Voronoff (1866 1951), working in Paris, was one of the first to transplant testicular tissue from a monkey into a human reproductive gland in 1920. Five years later he had already performed this procedure on 300 patients and attracted patients from all over the world. In America early efforts of human testicular transplantation were performed by Frank Lydston and V.D. Lespinasse. Steinach's vasoligation was taken over by many American doctors, e.g., Harry Benjamin and Charles H. Chetwood. Among the patients who underwent a rejuvenation operation according to Steinach's method were Sigmund Freud (1856 1939) and the Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Two caricatures from the German magazine Simplicissimus published in 1927, confirm that the rejuvenation operations were constantly in the limelight of the printed media. From 1935 onwards rejuvenation operations gradually lost their appeal due to the introduction of artificial androgens.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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