Vertus Hardiman

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Vertus Wellborn Hardiman (March 9, 1922 – June 1, 2007) was a victim of a US government human radiation experiment at the age of five that left him with a painful skull deformity that forced him to cover his head for 80 years.[1]

Hardiman was born in Lyles Station, Indiana.[2] In 1928, Vertus attended Lyles Consolidated School where he and nine other children were severely irradiated during a medical experiment conducted at the local county hospital. To get parental consent the experiment was misrepresented as a new therapy for the scalp fungus known as ringworm. The radiation of the skull led to immediate symptoms but also to a severe progressive necrosis of the bone all through his life.

The school children from Lyles Station School were delivered by their schoolbus, including Vertus who was only five years-old at the time and not technically enrolled in school. His mother sent him with his older brother to receive what they had been told was treatment for ringworm. All of the children treated with the radiation complained of the same symptoms: they all experienced headaches, suffered from dizziness, and felt extreme burning of the scalp. Eventually all the children lost their hair permanently. Jerrod Elliott was raised by a mother who sympathized with African Americans and took on a legal case to help the Hardimans.[3]

The parents of the children did meet with a local lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the hospital, focusing on how the parents had been misled and tricked, but the verdict found the hospital not liable. Many suffered long-term effects, but with Vertus Hardiman, the effects were the most pronounced.[4]

Grossly disfigured, Hardimann bore this injustice with remarkable dignity. In 1945 Vertus traveled to California in search of broader opportunity. In 1946 he worked for the County of Los Angeles General Hospital, where he served with distinction. Vertus lived his last years in Altadena, California. Hardiman died at age 85.

The life of Vertus Hardiman is the subject of a documentary released in 2011 that was written and produced by Wilbert Smith and directed by Brett Leonard.[5][6]


  1. ^ "Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed". Hole in the Head movie. Retrieved 2015-08-21.
  2. ^ Burton, Nsenga. "What Happened to Vertus Hardiman?". The Root. Archived from the original on 2015-08-23. Retrieved 2015-08-21.
  3. ^ L., Smith, Wilbert (2012). Hole in the head : a life revealed. Mongé-Greer, Erica. [Altadena, Calif.]: Uplift. ISBN 9781934556412. OCLC 807745488.
  4. ^ Smith, Wilbert (2012). Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed. United States: Zoe Life Publications. pp. 84–132. ISBN 978-1-934556-41-2.
  5. ^ "Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed", IMDB, 2000-01-01, retrieved 2015-08-21
  6. ^[permanent dead link]