Usually, exhumation of dead bodies takes place because some people believe the body in a casket is not there or is the wrong person. DNA testing is a popular reason that some deceased people are dug up from their final resting places. However, some bodies have been exhumed in the name of science, as mentioned in this article.
Before and during the 18th century, there was a trend amongst singers that if they were castrated before puberty, they would still be able to hit higher notes like they did as an adolescent. Those who went through the process were called castratos. Farinelli was one of the few singers that underwent the procedure that enjoyed a successful singing career later on in his life. He was known as one of the most famous castrato in all of Italy. Because of this, his body was exhumed in the name of science so that researchers could study the anatomical effects of prepubescent castration on the body.
Josef Haydn was an Austrian composer who became one of the most prolific and prominent composers during the Classical period. Nicknamed the “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet,” he significantly contributed to the advancement of classical music. Some of this innovation involved the piano trio and the evolution of sonata form.
After the musical genius was buried in 1809, Johan Peters bribed the gravediggers to permit him to steal the head of Haydn. Peters was motivated by a deep interest in the pseudoscience known as phrenology, which assess the shape of a skull to determine associated personality and traits. When Peters took a look at the musical bump of Haydn, he learned that it was ‘fully formed’ , something he believed would be true because of the musician’s talent.
Peters had all the intentions in the world to return Haydn’s skull to his body, but it was a hard task to complete. He wound up keeping the skull until the end of the Austrian War of 1809, where he then gave the skull to Josef Rosenbaum, who had worked for patrons of Hadyn. Rosenbaum’s wife was quite happy with having the skull in their possession. She would proudly display it in a glass box during musical recitals. However, in 1820, the true story of the skull became public knowledge.
Prince Esterhazy, who Rosenbaum worked for, decided to move Haydn’s remains to the family church. It was then that it was discovered the body was missing a head. When Rosenbaum learned of this discovery, he gave the prince a skull that was close to the shape and age of the musician. It was buried with the rest of the bones. In the meantime, the skull would find its way into the hands of others. It was not reunited with the rest of the body until 1954, which was 145 years following Haydn’s death.