Wacky Wednesday: Wills That Make You Go “Hmmm…” – Jeremy Betham

BenthamNB: This post is part of a series highlighting wills that contain some interesting, and sometimes bizarre, bequests and stipulations. You can see all these posts here.

Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher who died in 1832, included a very bizarre stipulation in his will.

He gave his body to his friend, Dr. Thomas Southwood Smith, instructing him to preserve his body and position it in such a manner that the whole figure could be seated in the chair he sat in while living.

After Dr. Smith had completed this process, he was to turn over control of the body to Jeremy Bentham’s executor, who was to clothe the remains in a black suit, and place the figure, seated on his chair, in a wood-and-glass cabinet known as the “Auto-Icon”.

He asked that his body be placed in attendance of any gatherings by friends or followers to commemorate him.

Because his head was badly distorted in the preservation process, a wax replica has now replaced it. For many years, the original head was stored in between his feet, but it was eventually locked away because it was a target for many pranksters.

Although the body was originally kept by Dr. Smith, it was acquired by the University College of London in 1850, and is now on display in one of the halls.

The body was brought to the meeting of the College Council on the 100th and 150th anniversary of the college, where it was listed as “present but not voting.”

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