The Scientist Who Tried To Resurrect A Death Row Inmate

In a Nutshell

Just over seventy years ago, Dr. Robert E. Cornish desperately wanted to experiment with a real-life human body – that experiment was to bring it back from the dead. A prisoner from a Californian prison volunteered, but both the prison warden, and the California Department of Corrections refused his trial. So, we’ll never know if Dr. Robert E. Cornish would have been successful.

The Whole Bushel

Scientists are stereotypically renowned for being mad, but back in 1935, Dr. Robert E. Cornish took that to a whole new level. After spending several months in the thirties practicing his bizarre theories on dogs, attempting to bring them back from clinical death, his desires changed. Instead of working on dogs, he wanted to conduct his experiments on humans, and he pitched the optimistic procedure to the state of California.

His procedure was rather shocking; Cornish would suffocate the dogs until they were no longer breathing, put the bodies on a teeterboard, and then rock them vigorously until blood started flowing again. Nothing has been proven, but he claimed that he was successful on two separate occasions. But, he wanted to try a similar version of that with a human.

Thomas McMonigle, who was a death row inmate at the San Quentin State Prison waiting to be executed, actually volunteered to be experimented on. Some twelve years after the idea emerged, Cornish finally petitioned to the California Department of Corrections. He explained to them that he wanted to try and revive McMonigle after he’d suffered his demise in a gas chamber.

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However, the warden of San Quentin, Clinton Duffy, intervened and declined the request due to safety reasons. Duffy stated that after an execution, it took approximately 30-minutes for the fumes to be extracted from the gas chamber. Cornish didn’t accept the denial, and appealed the decision and made a crazy offer – he said he’d replicate the San Quentin gas chamber, throw a sheep into it, then bring it back to life as some sort of evidence that his plan would work.

Of course, Duffy or the California courts weren’t convinced, and on February 20th, 1948, McMonigle was eventually executed. Now, some say that Cornish’s request wasn’t approved as the State of California didn’t want to enter any legal battles. You see, if Cornish’s procedure was successful, and McMonigle was brought back to life, he would legally be allowed to walk free.

Theorists believe that as the inmate would have served his sentence, and the subsequent punishment, he would no longer be required to be imprisoned. Furthermore, Cornish actually backed up that point, and told a local newspaper in 1947 that “lawyers told him if the convict were brought back to life he would legally be free.”

All in all, we’ll never know if the experiment would have resulted in a kidnapper-stroke-murderer becoming a free man. But, we do know that scientists can never expect a state, or warden, to authorize such a thing.

Show Me The Proof


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