Have you heard the one about the doctor in Kansas who made a fortune peddling goat testicles to cure impotence?

This may sound like the opening line for a joke, but it's actually the strange true tale of John Romulus Brinkley, a small-town doctor in 1900s America, whose rags-to-riches story is the subject of a funny and captivating documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

Directed by Penny Lane, "Nuts!" traces Brinkley's unbelievable rise to fame as he comes up with a surgical method to transplant goat testicles into impotent men while living in the tiny Kansas town of Milford in 1917.

Source: b'Representational Image | Source: AFP'

Who was John Romulus Brinkley?

Dubbed as one of the controversial Americans of 20th century, John Romulus Brinkley claimed himself to be a doctor who believed that the impotency in men can be cured by transplanting the testicles of goat into the humans. Not only that, Brinkley was also a radio broadcaster, who with his huge wealth also went on to become governor of Kansas. 

Born in 1885 in North Carolina, Brinkley earned the title of 'goat-gland doctor' despite having any formal medical education. But as it seems, it was not only Brinkley who believed the ridiculousness of his impotency treatment. According to Kansapedia, Brinkley had a huge following for his strangely promising medications that included injections, advises, some elixir mixtures, and sometimes speech doses of phrases from Bible to promise virility. 

Source: b'John Romulus Brinkley | Source: Wikipedia'

But finally Brinkley's world collapsed when he shifted his medical-quackery empire in 1938 to Pulaski County, Arkansas. This soon began after authorities got know of him and abstained him from practicing medical profession. However, Brinkley launched a radio station and got into advertising where he sold his medical tit-bit solutions to the listeners. 

The reason behind goat testicle theory

According to Penny Lane, it is said that the transplant idea dawned on Brinkley when he was visited by a farmer named Bill Stittsworth who, gazing out the window at two copulating goats, asked the good doctor if he could do something about his "sexual weakness."

The farmer is reportedly to have told Brinkley to "just put some goat nuts in me." 

With a guy ready before him to be experimented upon, the guess is Brinkley went ahead with the procedure. What happened to the farmer is still unknown, however, 'goat-gland doctor's procedure had gained popularity with even celebrity clients paying visit to him. 

As per an article in The Xerf, Brinkley died sick and penniless after suffering a massive heart attack. In 1942, he breathed his last after living a life full of controversies, wrongful deaths and a number of law suits brought against him by those who felt cheated.  

(With inputs from AFP)

Watch a documentary on his life here