Instead, we at Biography.com have decided to take a trip down the halls of science and cater to those who have an historic, intellectual (and perhaps slightly morbid) fascination with the anatomical preservation of famous mortals! Mwah haha!
Thanks to our friends at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, Pa, who house a vast collection of anatomical specimens of prominent figures within their 19th century “cabinet-style” medical history museum, we’re able to share with you some anatomical specimens that you probably never knew existed.
President Grover Cleveland’s Tumor
After discovering a painful tumor on the left side of his mouth in 1893, President Grover Cleveland secretly assembled a team of surgeons to remove the cancerous growth aboard his friend’s yacht. Considering he needed to appear strong amid the country’s financial crisis during that time, Cleveland led the public to believe he was merely going on a short vacation. Here’s a photo of his tumor:
The operation took just 90 minutes to complete, with surgeons removing some of the President’s teeth and part of his upper jaw. Later, doctors inserted a rubber prosthesis to help reconstruct Cleveland’s mouth and normalize his speech.
In the 1980s scientists re-analyzed the tumor and concluded Cleveland had verrucous carcinoma, a cancer usually found in people who chew tobacco.
Albert Einstein’s Brain
Before Albert Einstein’s brain became an iPad app, the Mütter Museum was the first museum to display parts of the scientist’s brain to the public.
Although Einstein wasn’t keen on the idea of having his anatomy on public display after his death, Dr. Thomas Harvey, the pathologist who performed Einstein’s autopsy in 1955, thought the genius’ brain was just too valuable to cremate. Thus, he confiscated it (although he later received Einstein son’s permission) and preserved it for the rest of posterity to use for scientific study. Here’s a sampling of his grey matter:
Currently, the museum owns an original set of 46 brain slides, which were taken from 23 regions of his brain.
John Wilkes Booth’s Vertebrate Tissue
Lieutenant Colonel Everton Conger was charged with pursuing Abraham Lincoln‘s assassin-turned fugitive John Wilkes Booth, who fled to a farmhouse in Virginia, along with his Confederate sympathizer cohort David Herold.
Once Conger’s troops cornered Booth and Herold in the tobacco barn of the farmhouse, Herold surrendered but Booth did not. The soldiers torched the barn, and Sgt. Boston Corbett ended up fatally shooting Booth in the neck: The bullet had reportedly stricken three of his vertebrae and paralyzed him. Below is a piece of Booth’s soft tissue taken from his damaged vertebrate:
As he lay dying, Booth was believed to have uttered, “Tell my mother I died for my country.”
Chang and Eng Bunker – The Siamese Twins’ Death Cast
The famous conjoined identical twins Chang and Eng Bunker were held together in the chest by a small band of cartilage. While surgeons today could’ve easily separated the twins, 19th century doctors were unable to perform such a procedure.
After traveling around the world as an exhibition, Chang and Eng sought a normal life. After becoming naturalized U.S. citizens, they settled on a North Carolina plantation, bought slaves, and married two sisters in the early 1840s. Chang fathered 10 children, while his brother Eng outdid him by one extra, having 11 of his own.
In January 1874 Chang suddenly died in his sleep after suffering from a bout of pneumonia. Three hours later Eng followed suit. Doctors initially surmised Eng had died from fright, but after further examination of their bodies, they discovered that the brothers had shared an artery and blood vessels; thus, Eng may have died from blood loss. Below is a photo of the plaster death cast of the twins’ upper torso and heads, which still contains embedded hairs. Their livers can also be viewed at the Mütter Museum.