Monday, April 08, 2013

Lists, Part II: Causes of Death

In the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, there's a wall of a hundred and thirty-nine skulls from the collection of Joseph Hyrtl, a Viennese anatomist (and, not surprisingly, phrenologist). Hyrtl collected skulls from all over the world, and this selection is entirely from Eastern Europe between 1868 and 1914. There's just enough information about each of them to make them fascinating: name, age, occupation, and cause of death. I stood in front of this wall for a long time wondering about these people. Here are the occupations and causes of death that I wrote down.

Brewer. Died of edema of the lungs.
Rope-walker. Broken neck.
Tailor. Dysentery.
Workman. Ascites.
Sharpshooter. Gunshot wounds.
Cabin boy. Phithis.
Robber and murderer. Hanging.
Suicide. Unhappy love affair.
Soldier. Typhus.
Sailor. Died in Hospital of the Holy Spirit, Venice.*
Soldier. Suicide by gunshot wound of the heart, because of weariness of life.
Ship's apprentice. Cholera.
Maidservant. Puerperal sepsis.
Calvinist. Suicide by hanging.

*I wrote this down because I misread it at first. I thought he died of the Holy Spirit.


mum said...

Some of these deaths seem to be as expected - maybe even the suicidal calvinist.

Simon said...

Quite so! I particularly like "Rope walker. Broken neck."