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Preserved, For Posterity?

Preserving the body after death has been practiced in human society for ages, and the Egyptian mummies are finest example of this. Perhaps, the Egyptians encouraged the modern world to preserve the body parts of famous personalities for years…

Italian Astronomer, Physicist and Engineer Galileo Galilei breathed his last on January 4, 1642. His thumb and middle finger are still preserved at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science (IMSS) in Florence, Italy. Some of his teeth and vertebrae of spinal cord have also been preserved there since 1737. When Galileo’s body was being taken from one memorial to another, these organs separated from his body.

Galileo’s vertebrae

German-born Theoretical Physicist Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm. The year 1905 was the most memorable for him, as Einstein published his three Research Papers, opening a new horizon for the World of Science… one of these discoveries helped him win the Nobel Prize. He passed away at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Centre in New Jersey, the US, on April 18, 1955.

Einstein’s brain

Einstein did not want his brain or body to be studied or worshipped. However, Princeton Pathologist Thomas Harvey, while performing the autopsy, removed the scientist’s brain without permission and kept it aside in the hope of unlocking the secrets of his genius! For research purposes, Dr Harvey cut Einstein’s brain into 240 pieces. Some of the pieces are preserved at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, while the rest are kept at a museum in Philadelphia. Again, Dr Harvey carefully removed Einstein’s cornea as well, which found their places at a museum in New York.

Einstein’s cornea

Napoléon Bonaparte, the French Emperor, died on May 5, 1821. Surprisingly, his genitals have also been preserved! A British doctor, who performed an autopsy on the emperor’s body after his death, reportedly removed his genitals. An American urologist purchased those for USD 2900 in 1969. The urologist used to keep them in a box under his bed till his death in 2007. The French Emperor’s genitals were auctioned again in 2016.

Napoléon’s genitals

American inventor and businessman Thomas Alva Edison passed away on October 18, 1931 in West Orange, New Jersey. His last breath was preserved in a test tube sealed with paraffin wax! During the inventor’s final days, his son, Charles, was asked to stay with him at the hospital all the time. American industrialist and business magnate Henry Ford, who was also a business partner of Edison, handed over a test tube to Charles. Charles held the test tube in his father’s mouth when the latter breathed his last! The test tube, with Edison’s last breath inside it, has been preserved at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.

Edison’s last breath

These events help the global community realise the fact that people love to preserve History in order to enjoy the journey to the past. Perhaps, such a move would refresh human minds…

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