The Grisly Trials That Gave Poison to Prisoners

January 18, 2021

(Nature) – It was a time of contagion and quacks. A Machiavellian power-broker keen to protect his position defied tradition to sponsor controlled experiments on the most marginalized of people. It was 1524. The Italian surgeon Gregorio Caravita offered Pope Clement VII a medicinal oil he had prepared as an antidote to poison. There were good reasons for the pope to fear poisoning. So, instead of dismissing Caravita’s unlikely claim, he decided to have the concoction tested — on condemned prisoners.