Jeremy Bentham: the philosopher who wanted to mummify to be exhibited at the university

If we visit the headquarters of the University College of London we can see a showcase that displays the mummified body of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, which arrived here in 1850.

Not surprisingly, Bentham was a child prodigy who, at age three, already spoke a little Latin. But his greatest contribution to thought came a few years later, with his doctrine of "utilitarianism": social institutions and conventions should produce the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. The most striking, however, is that it was he himself who wanted to mummify after death to become an icon for posterity.


Bentham was an icon in life: he defended individual freedom, total equality of the sexes, freedom of expression, separation between Church and State, non-criminalization of homosexuality and the abolition of slavery, in addition to one of the first to uphold the right of animals not to be mistreated inadvertently.

Bentham was special, then, and perhaps that is why, on May 30, 1832, a week before he died, the philosopher added a posture to his will, written many years before, in which he specified that he wanted to leave his body to science . As he explains Luigi Garlaschelli in the book The mad scientist:

According to his wishes, two days after his death he proceeded to dissection of the body and subsequent operations. The treatment of the head involved its immersion in a solution of sulfuric acid and the application of vacuum to extract the liquids; Unfortunately, the result was of very low quality and resulted in a macabre rest, with a dark and wrinkled skin on the skull, and whose crystal eyes make it even more spooky. Thus, it was considered appropriate to carry out a copy of the head in wax, which looked a lot and had Bentham's original hair, while the real one was initially resting on the floor, between the feet of the mummy .

It is now possible to virtually visit the "relic" on the University College website.

Video: ICONIC CORPSE: The Head of Jeremy Bentham (November 2019).