Featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Today: The Cat Phone
If we told you a live cat could be turned into a telephone, would you believe it? You better. Successful kitten transmissions were made in 1929, and believe it or not, it was no Island of Doctor Moreau shenanigan, it was done in a lab by two Princeton researchers!
In 1929 Ernest Wever and Charles Bray thought, “Hey, how about a cat telephone? Yeah—let’s do it in the name of science!” and proceeded to remove part of a cat’s skull, along with most of its brain, and attach an electrode to the animal’s right auditory nerve and another to the cat’s body.
Those electrodes were hooked up to an amp and the signals were sent to a telephone receiver. To Ernie and Chuck’s surprise, when they talked into the ear of the cat, the sound could be heard in the receiver. IT WORKED! The cat itself acted as the telephone’s transmitting end.
Their research states that speech was transmitted with “great fidelity,” and was “easily received.” They even said this could actually be “employed as a means of communication.”
The Princeton cat survived the first experiment, but Ernie and Chuck went for round two, deciding to kill the cat and try again. They were not successful.
Although certain aspects of the experiment were later disproven, it is believed that this insanity inspired research on cochlear implants, which also convert sound into electrical signals. This stimulates the auditory nerve to create a sense of hearing in deaf individuals.
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