Vertus Wellborn Hardiman (March 9, 1922 – June 1, 2007) was a victim of a US government human radiation experiment at the age of 5 that left him with a painful skull deformity that forced him to cover his head for 80 years.
Hardiman was born in Lyles Station, Indiana. 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.
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.