In 1939, a speech pathologist at the University of Iowa, Wendell Johnson, set out to test his theory about how stuttering began, by deliberately turning a group of 6 orphans into stutterers. In 2000, a newspaper reporter found some surviving orphans, many of whom said that Johnson’s experiments had harmed their willingness to talk and who later sued the University of Iowa. Johnson, who died in 1965, buried the results of the study shortly after WWII — an experiment on unsuspecting orphans was too similar to horrific Nazi science experiments then being reported — though it lived in academic lore nicknamed “the Monster Study.”
This particularly ignominious chapter in the history of speech pathology closed recently, when the University and the 6 orphans recently settled for $925,000, as reported in this piece in the Des Moines Register. The orphans had originally sued for $13.1 million. Settling was apparently a way to provide some closure to the plaintiffs, who are all in their 70s or 80s.