Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Piece of (Thomas Hardy’s) Heart

The world has long had an obsession with preserving the body parts of the dead. The ancient Egyptians were famous for it. During the Middle Ages, nearly every church in Europe had relics in its possession, often including the bones and organs of saints. But as perceptions of death changed, these traditions gradually went out of style -- with a few notable exceptions.Most famously, the brain of Albert Einstein was removed after his death and owned by a succession of scientists for the next forty years. Only in the 1990s was it returned to Princeton University, where researchers concluded that, yes, Einstein was smarter than the average bear.After Napoleon’s mysterious death in 1821, his overeager jailers stole many of the former French leader’s belongings -- including his "little corporal" (if you believe the rumors). It now rests in a quiet home in New Jersey. The same fate was said to befall the bodies of John Dillinger and Grigori Rasputin, but both stories just may be urban legends.Other famous body parts that remained in circulation after the deaths of their owners include Oliver Cromwell's head, Sarah Bernhardt's leg, and more recently and tragically, the bones of famed BBC and PBS personality Alistair Cooke. And poor Thomas Hardy's heart was supposedly eaten by his doctor's cat!So I suppose the moral of this story is, at least for dead celebrities, keep your friends close and your enemies far, far away.Suggested Sites...
Napoleon's Privates - a recent book about the unfortunate fate of Napoleon's remains -- and other scandalous historical moments.
Postcards from the Brain Museum - another book about research completed on the brains of important figures from Einstein to Lenin.
Dead Celebrities' Body Parts - photo gallery of just what it sounds like.
National Museum of Health and Medicine - owns pieces of Abraham Lincoln’s skull and hair, as well as the bullet that killed him.
Directory categories: History, Death Beliefs and Practices, Collecting, Urban Legends, Dead Celebrities
Archived under: 19th Century, Actors, Anatomy, Ancient History, Authors, Bereavement, Celebrities, Collectibles, Collecting, Crime, Criminals, Dead Celebrities, Death, Grigori Rasputin, History, In Character, Medicine, Mysteries, Mythology and Folklore, Oliver Cromwell, Rumors, Secrets, Urban Legends, Weird Stuff

By Sarah LatozaWed, March 18, 2009, 12:01 am PDT

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