The chairman was acupunctured to the satisfaction of all at a congressional hearing in the Rayburn Building yesterday.
The House Science, Research and Technology Subcommittee has established a task force on scientific cooperation between America and China, and one of the questions is whether acupuncture (a specialty of the Chinese) is something suitable for the Chinese to teach us.
"Now, the person who has volunteered for this demonstration of acupuncture is George E. Brown Jr., chairman of the congressional science committee," it was announced. Sure enough, there was Rep. Brown, looking alert.
Dr. Grace Wong got out the needles and said something.
She was asked to speak into the microphone, as everyone in the room craned for a good look at a genuine live Chinese acupucture expert.
"I think I should sit down," said Wong, settling in front of the mike and giving Chairman Brown a comforting pat on the shoulder.
"I will insert these needles, one in his hand and one in his ear, and in 35 or 40 minutes his upper gum will be numb, so that dentistry could be performed without pain."
Brown, a California Democrat, did not stay either aye or nay. A great buzzer went off and other congressmen in the room left for the Capitol to vote on some matter.
"Mr. Brown, I'm sorry you won't be able to accompany us to the vote." a colleague said.
By this time Chairman Brown was needled up and hooked to a little machine with six flashlight batteries, which gave just enough power to vibrate the needles. (Committee Republicans had nothing whatever to do with the chairman's being wired up at vote time.)
A reporter took the opportunity, during the voting recess, to ask Brown if the acupuncture made one feel drowsy or had any effect on the brain.
"No," he said. "Just a slight sense of euphoria."
The demonstration resumed after the voting.
"Dr. Wong, how are we doing with the patient?" asked a cheery congressman.
She said all right.
"No particular pain," said Brown, "but a slight numbness in the hand and in the ear."
The question was raised whether Brown would be numb forever, but Wong said no, only for an hour or so.
People kept getting out of their chairs to look at Brown, who maintained considerable dignity as folks peered at the needles penetrating him. One lady thought they were going to pull teeth, but Brown said:
"My dental work has already been done."
"Now we'll just find out if this feels sharp," it was announced in the cheery tone therapists manage so well, and a 25-gauge needle was stuck into Brown's upper gum. Then in his lower gum, which was not affected by the acupuncture.
"I saw him notably flinch when you put in the lower gum," cried one congressman, "but not when you put it in the upper gum. Is that correct?"
"That is correct," said Brown, who was still smarting from the lower needle.
"I did draw a little blood," said a doctor with Wong. "Didn't mean to go that hard.Dr. Wong, do you have the needle out of his ear?"
Thus was the chairman a living example for the Congress to muse upon in its legislative deliberations, convincing everybody that the needles in hand and ear did indeed block pain the upper gum. It was said that chronic pain costs Americans $35 to $50 billion a year and that acupuncture, though not perfect, sometimes relieves pain for months or years.
"I would like to thank Dr. Brown for being willing," said a congressman, "and would hope the chairman will rejoin us up here at the table." (Prolonged applause followed.)
So the committee went on with its hearings on Chinese medicine, with various experts to be heard, and Chairman Brown looked good as new in his natty tan and tawny clothes.
Some say it was a milestone in House history, ranking perhaps with the first use of chloroform (which was not a House event, since the Congress was not so concerned with science in those far-off days).
Years hence, it was speculated, freshmen congressmen will look back to the day Chairman Brown volunteered for science and say, "There were giants in those days." CAPTION: Picture 1, George E. Brown Jr., by James K. W. Atherton - The Washington Post, Picture 2, George E. Brown Jr. with Dr. Grace Wong, by James K. W. Atherton