Jeremy Bentham’s actual decomposing, severed head is now on display at UCL
Jeremy Bentham, the founder of UCL, was a very strange man and now everyone can see his very strange severed head, thanks to a new exhibition by UCL Culture.
Passed by thousands of students every day and a key stopping point for every tour of the university, Jeremy Bentham’s body has been on display for more than 150 years in a glass case in UCL’s cloisters.
However, this is the first time in decades his head has been open to view by the public. Unfortunately, following a problem with mummification, it was decided that his head was too ugly to show and so has been kept in a safe, only removed once a year to check his skin and hair are still intact.
UCL Culture’s exhibition focuses on death and preservation:
“The exhibition positions Bentham’s head within the context of his scholarship and his beliefs, with reference to prevailing ideas of the time about death and dead bodies. It asks the question, why did he believe donation was important? And forces us to ask what that means to us today.” said Subhadra Das, Curator of Collections (UCL Culture).
Scientists are also using this opportunity to test Jeremy Bentham’s DNA for autism or Asperger’s, following suggestions by researchers that his eccentric character might have been driven by this syndrome.
You can check out the exhibition and see the severed head from 2 October 2017 to 28 February 2018 at the Octagon Gallery, Wilkins Building, UCL.