Robert Hooke and the Dog’s Lung: Animal Experimentation in History

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

1In 1664, Robert Hooke—a pioneering member of the Royal Society and lead scientific thinker of his day—decided to investigate the mechanisms involved in breathing. In his laboratory, he strapped a stray dog to his table. Then, taking his scalpel, he proceeded to slice the terrified animal’s chest off so he could peer inside the thoracic cavity.

What Hooke hadn’t realised before he began his experiment was that lungs were not muscles, and that by removing the animal’s chest, he had removed the dog’s ability to breathe on its own. To keep the animal alive, Hooke pushed a hollow cane down the dog’s throat and into its windpipe. He then pumped air into the animal’s lungs with a bellow for over an hour, carefully studying the way in which the organs expanded and contracted with each artificial breath. All-the-while, the dog stared at him in horror, unable to whimper or cry…

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