Some individuals are so well-known that their bodies attract attention even in death. On this short list of famous corpses, or parts of famous corpses: a skeleton, an eyeball, a brain, and a penis.
Yes, a penis. And as you can imagine, this organ doesn’t exactly hold up well to the elements. Alternatively, there are some people who are super-famous, and whose corpses are just sort of ... left. Read on to find out what belongs to whom and where these body parts were found.
4. All of Richard III
If you've ever attended a performance of Shakespeare's Richard III, you probably realize that no one much cared for the man while he was alive. It might surprise you to learn, however, that he was so universally disliked (and considered un-kingly, possibly due to the unsightly hump) that no one cared where he was buried or bothered to mark his grave.
He died where he fell in the Battle of Bosworth–just two years into his reign–and was shoved into a shallow grave without so much as a how-do-you-do. Richard’s remains laid in a church graveyard for many years. However, when the buildings were eventually razed to make room for a parking lot, no one bothered to dig up the human remains (kingly or otherwise) ahead of time.
Then, in 2012, the city decided that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to find the old guy’s bones. They found a skeleton with some of the genetic markers associated with the unpopular monarch (scoliosis, most notably) and dug up a close enough relative to get a DNA match.
Some argue that because Richard’s grandmother, Joan Beaufort, had so many children, her DNA could be found in any number of random dead Englishmen. Maybe it’s not him. But maybe it is. You believe what you’d like.
3. Walt Whitman’s Brain
One of America’s most beloved writers, Walt Whitman offered up his brain for study after death. It was collected by a group called the American Anthropometric Society (AKA the Brain Club), one that collected a bunch of famous brains around the turn of the century in order to try to understand what made some human beings exceptional.
And all was going well, until 1907—when an assistant dropped the brain jar, turning Walt’s brain into floor jelly.
Or at least that’s what lead pathologist Dr. Henry Ware Cattell wanted everyone to think. As it turns out, Cattell himself ruined the brain. He left the lid off the jar, thus spoiling the preserved organ. The accident haunted him for years. Cattell documented his not-so-little secret in an 1893 diary entry, which was made public in 2012.
2. Albert Einstein’s Eyes
Albert Einstein went out of his way to request that his body be cremated and not fawned over or examined by future scientists. But pathologist Thomas Harvey just couldn’t bring himself to toss out such an amazing brain. One could forgive Harvey for his transgression, except that he also removed Einstein’s eyes so that he could pass them along to a colleague.
The colleague was Einstein’s family physician and eye doctor, Henry Abrams. Dr. Abrams, who died in 2009 at the age of 97, was very private about his possession. All we really know is that he kept the eyes in a jar in a New York City safe deposit box. There was once a rumor that he refused to sell them to Michael Jackson, but we don’t know a whole lot since Dr. Abrams remained tight-lipped about the situation.
Related: The Oldest Thing Alive Today
1. Napoleon’s Penis
This list would not be in any way complete without telling you that the only part of Napoleon’s body that remains is his penis. This fact is both awful and oddly appropriate given the “little man complex” jokes that haunt Napoleon’s reputation.
Here’s what happened: The doctor who handled Napoleon’s corpse believed that the emperor's remains should return to his birthplace of Corsica. Or at least, a portion of his remains should return to Corsica. He cut off the emperor’s penis and handed it over to a priest, who returned with it to the Mediterranean island. His family took charge of the organ until 1916, when it was bought by a British collector, who soon sold it to the Pennsylvanian Museum of French Art. TIME described the, er, display as a "maltreated strip of buckskin shoelace."
Then, in 1977, a urologist named John Lattimer purchased the remains and spirited it away from public view. For years, the artifact remained in Lattimer's New Jersey home—the doctor was in fact a collector of curious objects, and also possessed the bloodstained collar worn by Lincoln on the night of his assassination. After his passing, Lattimer's daughter inherited just what all daughters hope to one day inherit from their father–a former French Emperor's penis.
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Featured photo: Wikimedia Commons