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Piece of Jeremy Bentham's skin, England, 1832

This skin fragment is from the dissected body of eminent English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). The inscription reads: ‘Part of the skin of the late Jeremy Bentham Esq. Who bequeathed his Body for anatomical purposes, and was dissected, July 1832.’ Dissection was one way to teach medical students anatomy. However, many people who saw the body as sacred and were fearful and distrustful of dissection of the dead opposed it. Bentham left his body, thousands of books and a large estate to University College London. His instructions were to dissect, embalm and dress his body, and place it in a chair. This famous ‘auto-icon’ is still at the university.

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    Glossary: human remains

    term created as part of the NMSI human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human hair'

    Glossary: human skin

    the outer covering of the body, consisting of an outer layer, the epidermis, and an inner layer, the dermis. Beneath the dermis is a layer of fatty tissue.

    Glossary: anatomy

    A branch of medical science concerned with the structure of living organisms.

    Glossary: dissection

    The cutting apart and separation of body tissues for the purposes of critical examination. Dissection of corpses is often carried out for the study of anatomy.