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RetroScience: Astro Cats and Space Rats

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

Want to travel back in time? In our weekly “Retro Science” series, we’re digging up visual artifacts that capture fascinating moments from science history, including surprising studies, outdated inventions, and breakthrough achievements. By recapturing science’s impressive feats and most amusing flops, RetroScience will remind us of how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go.

Dr. Dietrich Beischer, a cat, and a rat (names not known).

It’s 1958 at the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine in Pensacola, Florida. Naval researcher Dr. Dietrich Beischer has strapped cats and mice to magnetized boots that hold them upside down on a metal sheet, and is observing the animals in their disoriented state. This ethically questionable study was supposed to predict how astronauts were affected by spending long durations of time upside down in space. Did the study give us real insight on space travel? Maybe. Was it bizarre and memorable? Definitely.

The photo originally appeared in a November 1958 issue of Life magazine .

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.