“Long live the knife”

The BB of C’s website has an interesting article on the 18th and 19th century castrati singers of Italy, where at one point some 4, 000 boys were being castrated to protect their singing voices from breaking in later life, which is a lot of balls. There is even an online file of a very old gramaphone recording from 1902 of one of the last of the castrati (not Farinelli, made famous to more mdoern audiences by the movie a few years ago though).

I’m not sure, but it sounds like the one that Arman Leroi played in the Channel 4 series Human Mutants when he was discussing how hormones – or the lack of them – affect the development of the human body. Castrati, like the eunuchs of the Imperial Court in China, were often preternaturally tall and thin with limbs out of proportion to their bodies due to the lack of testosterone and other hormones telling their bones when to cease growing. Leroi’s award-winning book Mutants also has a section on the subject as well as a range of fascinating although often disturbing (but never ghoulish, always addressed with respect for humanity) examinations of human development – my old review of the book is still on the Alien Online here.