As depressing as it is to ponder, when death comes to pass, our physical forms will still inhabit this world for a time – and at this point they become someone else’s responsibility.
What happens when you’re not around to look after yourself? A book by Bess Lovejoy recounts some wild stories surrounding some notable corpses – or pieces thereof. Ranging from humorous to disturbing, these famous historical figures may have had more adventures dead than alive.
French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is widely known for many things, one of which being his rather small stature. This “petite-ness” apparently extended to other parts of his anatomy, and while performing Mr. Bonaparte’s autopsy, the doctor inexplicably decided to sever the deceased ruler’s penis – and gifted it to a priest in Corsica.
Napoleon’s famous body part has changed hands several times since its removal, and currently belongs to Evan Lattimer, who inherited it from her father who was a urologist. A recent documentary revealed that in life, Napoleon’s penis was a mere 1.5 inches long. Not being preserved properly over the years, the royal member has been said to resemble leather, a shriveled eel, or even a piece of jerky.
Albert Einstein was unquestionably one of the most brilliant minds of any generation. So it may not surprise you that the doctor who performed Einstein’s autopsy removed this famously well-utilized brain. Once removed, pathologist Thomas Stoltz Harvey cut the brain up into pieces in his lab for study. Some of the pieces he kept for himself, but others went on a road trip and ended up in the hands of several of the world’s leading pathologists.
OK, that doesn’t seem that bizarre, but Harvey also removed Einstein’s eyes and gave them to Henry Abrams, Einstein’s ophthalmologist. Put differently, the peepers of one of the world’s most famous scientists are still secreted away in a safe deposit box somewhere in New York City.
Mata Hari was the stage name of Dutch-born Margaretha Zelle, who became one of Paris’ most popular exotic dancers. It is thought that in addition to her on-stage seduction acts, Mata Hari was a double agent during the early days of World War One, or what was then known as The Great War.
Upon the interception of a coded message sent by German military, it was determined that Mata Hari was working as a spy for the Germans. She was subsequently arrested and executed by firing squad on October 15th, 1917.
Since Mata Hari’s body was not claimed by family, it was used for medical studies. Her head was embalmed and kept in the Museum of Anatomy in Paris, where it was, for a time, displayed prominently. However, in the year 2000, archivists discovered the head had disappeared, as well as the body (which records from 1918 show had also been given to the museum). It is unknown what happened to her head or body, but they are presumed to have been missing ever since 1954 when the museum was relocated.