“The Forgotten Era of Brain Chips,” published in Scientific American in October 2005, has provoked as much interest as anything I’ve ever written. It focuses on Jose Manuel Rodriguez Delgado, a pioneer in brain-stimulation research. I keep hearing from journalists and others wanting more information on Delgado, whom I interviewed in 2005 and who died in 2011. Delgado fascinates conspiracy theorists, too. An article on Infowars.com describes him as a “madman” who believed that “no human being has an inherent right to his own personality.” Given widespread interest in and misinformation about Delgado, whose work prefigures current research on brain implants (see “Further Reading”), I’m posting an edited version of my 2005 article. –John Horgan
Once among the world’s most acclaimed scientists, Jose Manuel Rodriguez Delgado has become an urban legend, whose career is shrouded in misinformation. Delgado pioneered that most unnerving of technologies, the brain chip, which manipulates the mind by electrically stimulating neural tissue with implanted electrodes. Long a McGuffin of science fictions, from The Terminal Man to The Matrix, brain chips are now being tested as treatments for epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, paralysis, depression, and other disorders.