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Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

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"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" is a short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 by American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 author Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

, about a doctor who claims to have been sent water from the Fountain of Youth
Fountain of Youth
The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring that reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. Tales of such a fountain have been recounted across the world for thousands of years, appearing in writings by Herodotus, the Alexander romance, and the stories of Prester John...

. It was eventually published in Hawthorne's collection Twice-Told Tales
Twice-Told Tales
Twice-Told Tales is a short story collection in two volumes by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The first was published in the spring of 1837, and the second in 1842...

in 1837.


An eccentric aging physician, Dr. Heidegger, calls together his old friends and contemporaries to test his waters of the "fountain of youth". As the doctor himself sits by to enjoy the show, each of his four aged friends eagerly quaffs more and more of the magic potion, each draught further carrying them backwards into their shared youth. Having grown young, smooth-skinned and agile again, the three men begin to fight for the favors of the fourth compatriot now restored to her former beauty.

In the heat of the fracas, they begin to grow tired and within minutes the effect of the "water" has worn off. The participants in the brief respite from old age are devastated by the transience of the experience. Despite Heidegger's warning that he has learned to appreciate the advantage of age by watching the four of them make themselves fools, they learned no such lesson and resolve to make a pilgrimage to Florida to seek the Fountain.


  • Dr. Heidegger - old and wise physician who is the protagonist of the story.
  • Colonel Killigrew - a man who throughout his life has had many different sexual partners and many different pleasures.
  • Mr. Medbourne - once a rich merchant who lost most of his money gambling, but claimed that he lost it in a stock investment.
  • Mr. Gascoigne - a politician whose career was cut short.
  • Widow Wycherly was formerly a beautiful woman loved by the three gentlemen.

Publication history

The story was first published as "The Fountain of Yonder" in 1837 in Lewis Gaylord Clark's
Lewis Gaylord Clark
Lewis Gaylord Clark was an American editor and the brother of Willis Gaylord Clark.-Biography:Clark was born in Otisco, New York in 1808. He succeeded Charles Fenno Hoffman as editor of the Knickerbocker Magazine, a role he held for over 25 years...

 The Knickerbocker
The Knickerbocker
The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine, was a literary magazine of New York City, founded by Charles Fenno Hoffman in 1833, and published until 1865 under various titles, including:...

magazine, though it was left anonymous. It was soon included in the collection Twice-Told Tales.


  • Dr. Heidegger's Fountain of Youth chamber opera
    Chamber opera
    Chamber opera is a designation for operas written to be performed with a chamber ensemble rather than a full orchestra.The term and form were invented by Benjamin Britten in the 1940s, when the English Opera Group needed works that could easily be taken on tour and performed in a variety of small...

     by Jack Beeson
    Jack Beeson
    Jack Beeson was an American composer. He was known particularly for his operas, the best known of which are Lizzie Borden, Hello Out There! and The Sweet Bye and Bye.-Biography:...

     and Sheldon Harnick
    Sheldon Harnick
    Sheldon Harnick is an American lyricist best known for his collaborations with composer Jerry Bock on hit musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof....


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