1822 – Shooting Leads to Medical Experiments

On this date Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot in the stomach at Mackinac Island. St. Martin was treated by Dr. William Beaumont, who saved his life but left an open wound in the young man’s side. Over many subsequent years, Dr. Beaumont conducted experiments through the opening in St. Martin’s stomach. Beaumont and the St. Martin family moved to Prairie du Chien for a period, where the doctor conducted 238 scientific experiments on St. Martin’s exposed stomach with only a spool of thread, a scissors, various foods, and a thermometer. Beaumont’s important discoveries about digestion were published in 1833 in “Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion.” His experiments proved to be crucial to a scientific understanding of how human digestion works. More information on military physician William Beaumont and is available elsewhere at wisconsinhistory.org. [Source: “Badger Saints and Sinners” by Fred L. Holmes, p. 136-150]