The skeleton of an 18th-century celebrity nicknamed the “Irish Giant” should be removed from a museum and buried at sea in keeping with his last wishes, two experts have argued.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, medical ethicist Len Doyal and legal researcher Thomas Muinzer said there is no good scientific reason to display the skeleton of Charles Byrne, who died in 1783.
“What has been done cannot be undone but it can be morally rectified,” the two men wrote. “Surely it is time to respect the memory and reputation of Byrne.”
Byrne stood about 2.3 meters tall as a result of acromegaly, or an excess of growth hormone. He became a celebrity in 18th-century London as the main attraction in a museum of curiosities, but died aged just 22.
Despite Byrne’s wish to be buried at sea, his body was purchased by pioneering surgeon and anatomist John Hunter, who often hired grave robbers to supply him with corpses. For two centuries Byrne’s skeleton has been on display at the Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum in London.
Doyal, of London’s Queen Mary University, and Muinzer, of Queen’s University Belfast, said that while Byrne’s skeleton had been of use to medical research, that was no reason to put it on public display. “Moreover, now that Byrne’s DNA has been extracted, it can be used in further research,” they wrote.
1. in keeping with prep. phr.
與…一致 (yu3 … yi2 zhi4)
例: Her actions are in keeping with her promises.
2. rectify v.
改正 (gai3 zheng4)
例: The Central Weather Bureau has rectified its latest weather forecast.
3. extract v.
抽取 (chou1 qu3)
例: Sucrose is extracted from sugar cane.