Tired of London, Tired of Life - A website about things to do in London



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26 February 2014

See the Jeremy Bentham auto-icon

It's rather alarming that it has taken your author more than five years to get around to writing about Jeremy Bentham, who sits encased in a wood and glass box in the South Cloisters at UCL in Bloomsbury, but until last Friday the moment just hadn't arisen to pop in and see him. However, sure enough there he sat, just as he has since 1850, in a display known as the auto-icon.

Upon his death in 1832, Bentham left instructions for Thomas Southwood Smith to create the auto-icon, with the skeleton and head preserved and stored in the wooden cabinet, and the skeleton padded out with hay and dressed in Bentham's original clothes. Today, the hair and clothes we see are original, as is his skeleton beneath, but the head we see today is a wax model made by a French artist Jacques Talrich. The original head - which was famously kidnapped by King's College students in October 1975 - was mummified and is now kept in special environmental conditions in the Institute of Archaeology. The auto-icon case is usually open from around 8am and closed at 6pm, Monday – Friday, as long as he's not busy attending his occasional UCL board meetings.

For more, see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/jeremy-bentham/

^Picture © Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar used under a Creative Commons license^


  1. First Gordon Square - now Jeremy Bentham. You're really taking me down memory lane this week. I was one of the godless of Gower Street back in the day!

  2. However, the wait time goes by quickly when you are sipping a smooth wine - of which they have many option.
    Likewise, the food is fabulous. london icons

    1. Amazing piece of spam! But by complete coincidence, the wait to see Jeremy Bentham is quick, and it does go past quicker with wine, and the food *IS* fabulous