(Reprinted from the Journal of Intestinal Gas)
As a former student of Dr. Pugh, and my predecessor as editor of this august journal, I consider it an honor to deliver the eulogy to this legendary gastroenterologist. He was born in the tiny hamlet of Crapperton in Dorset England in 1916, and died just this January of a heart attack at the age of ninety-six while on the commode straining at a recalcitrant turd.
John was named for a great-grandfather who purportedly invented the English outhouse in the eighteenth century. His middle name was after Farthing Pugh, his uncle, who was thought to be very wealthy, and the family hoped for a financial windfall; but upon his death, his only monetary accumulation was his namesake coin. Young Pugh was miraculously toilet trained at the age of fourteen months and this suggested that he might be a prodigy in the field of elimination. His little potty chair was saved by his mother and can still be found at the family home. In grade school there were three other children in his class named John, and the kids rather maliciously gave him the name of Stinky, which stuck with him for the rest of his life.
Stinky showed his natural bent for science as a teenager. His first love was astronomy, and he studied the planets in detail, particularly Titania and Oberon, which orbit the seventh planet, and to this day his scientific paper entitled “Mooning Uranus” is still available in reprints. His interests turned to biology, and while in high school he obtained a summer internship at the London Zoo where he researched hemorrhoidal disease in the hippopotamus.
He immigrated to the United States after obtaining his medical degree, and studied under the pioneer gastroenterologist, Dr. Seymour Butt, performing ground breaking basic research. He was fascinated with the croaking of frogs and established that this noise was similar to the human belch, particularly after two or three beers. He wrote a definitive treatise on the size of elephant feces, proving conclusively that they produced the largest turds in the animal kingdom; and, of course his classic publication “Flatus Formation in the Ferret”, written in 1950, is still quoted in the zoology journals today.
He collaborated with the brilliant scientist Noh Kan Pooh, and the team of Pooh Pugh performed investigations on the odor of human gas, and I can honestly state that Stinky earned his nickname during those experiments. I joined Dr. Pugh in 1990, after hearing him speak at a medical convention on the causes of nausea in sewer workers in the Boston area. Stinky (I didn’t call him that at first) set me to work to ascertain why poop was brown and shaped like a hot dog. I travelled the world collecting data. In Papua New Guinea, I was fortunate to escape with my life when I attempted to place a specimen container under a cannibal while he was doing his business, if you know what I mean. Another time, I was on the Tibetan Plateau and had to wait for a herder to smoke a yak-dung cigarette before obtaining my sample. I visited Johnny-on-the-Spots in thirteen states and finally returned to Stinky with my specimens. Unfortunately, by then our study had become obsolete when a rival lab established that the Tootsie Roll could be used as a model for this evaluation.
Famous patients came from all over the world to be treated by the great doctor. He treated popes who couldn’t poop, kings with constipation and dictators with diarrhea. Dr. Pugh worked well into his nineties, but by this time, he had lost some of his clinical skills as well as his memory and eyesight. He got lost on the way to work one day, and thought that a python at a nearby zoo was a colonoscope and wanted to perform the procedure on an unsuspecting chimpanzee.
With the passing of this legendary scientist, the gastroenterology world has lost an aficionado of flatus, a wizard of wind passage, and an expert on expulsion. On a personal note, I must admit that I will sorely miss Stinky and the invaluable guidance and counsel that he has given me over the years. Every time that I fart or pass near a cesspool, the smell will remind me of Dr. Pugh, and I will never forget his famous motto “If you can’t stand the stench, get out of the bathroom”.