Economist Jeremy Bentham, also known as founder of modern utilitarianism, had intended his ‘real’ head to be placed on top of the Auto-icon. He left instructions for the treatment meted to his body upon his death. He died in 1832. As per the instructions he had left, the body was first dissected and then preserved permanently as an auto-icon representing his memorial. This memorial is on display towards the end of South Cloisters of University College of London’s main building.
The auto-icon is preserved in a wooden cabinet which contains the preserved skeleton. The skeleton wears Bentham’s original clothes and a wax head is surmounted on it. Though, according to the original will, Bentham wanted the original head to adorn the auto-icon. However, the desiccation process, done by the New Zealand Maoris, went awry. As a result, the face became unappealing as it lost most of the facial expressions (Marmoy, 1958). The skeleton was therefore surmounted with the wax head instead and the original head with glass eyes was kept on the auto-icon’s floor for some years. Later, in 1948, it was kept inside a specially made wooden box for greater protection and this box was placed on top of the auto-icon case. Later, in1956, it was moved to the plinth of the Cloisters door that led to the eastern staircase.
However, the box and the head were irresistible targets for students and there were several rumored attempts to harm the box and the head. After a particular incident 1975, the box was moved to the Records Department Strong Room for safety (Booth, 2015). In 2005, it was placed in the Conservation Safe at the Institute of Archaeology. Since public display of human remains was considered inappropriate, the head can only be viewed through special permissions from the College Collections’ curator.
One of my favorite economists is John Maynard Keynes. His theory regarding aggregate demand not necessarily being equal to production at full employment, not just challenges neoclassical theories, it also presents policies that are useful in the state of economic depression. Having witnessed the global economic recession of 2007-08, and the use of his theories to regain economic activity; it makes him one of the most intelligent and practical theorists in my view.
Booth, N. J. (2015). ‘Who turned out the lights on Jeremy Bentham?’ UCL Museums & Collections Blog. Retrieved from: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2015/11/09/who-turned-out-the-lights-on-jeremy-bentham/
Marmoy, C. F. (1958). The ‘auto-icon’of Jeremy Bentham at University College, London. Medical history, 2(02), 77-86.