April 15, 2021

Headless bodies | Science

Headless bodies | Science

There are stories of fiction capable of influencing the thinking of the time, even opening the scientific debate. An example of this is the novel The thousand and one ghosts. Dated in 1849, the aforementioned work is a collection of horror stories recounted in the testimonial way by Alexandre Dumas.

Everything begins when the writer is invited to hunt down the village of Fontenay, where he will witness the confession of a man who asks to be imprisoned for murdering his wife. It seems that he has just decapitated her with a sword. Do you think a head can speak from the body? Ask the criminal to those present, including Dumas himself.

Is a head separate from his body aware of his agony? The stupor before the questions led to Physiologist Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard to experiment with a dog. I wanted to show that the animal's head was still alive once it was separated from the body. It happened in 1857. With this, Brown-Sequard did not consider something new, in fact he was picking up the experiments of the also physiologist Julien-Jean-César Legallois, who maintained that the matter was possible if, through the cut veins, it was done get enough blood to the head.

Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard
Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard

When Brown-Sequard was able to carry out his experiment, he noticed voluntary contractions in the eyes and snout of the animal, which leads one to suppose that a century earlier, the French physician Jean-Joseph Sue was close to proposing to experiment with the inmates who were going to be guillotined. Jean-Joseph Sue's proposal was to agree on a signal code that the head, once separated from the body, had to emit with the eyes and the mouth. With this, the invention of the guillotine was reaffirmed in its scientific dimension.

These are things that are told in a book full of clues and mutilations based on real events. We refer to The mad scientist (Alliance) by L. Garlaschelli and A. Carrer. In one of their footnotes, they tell us about Dumas' novel, The thousand and one ghosts, and its influence on the collective imagination of the time.

Another of the bizarre stories that intersect in the aforementioned novel by Dumas tells us about the public execution of Charlotte Corday, a woman with a "proud and energetic" head who looked at the scaffold with a smile. His head, instead of falling into the basket, would roll over the planks. It was one of the executioner's assistants who grabbed her by the hair and offered her to the crowd with rudeness. Then he hit her with a slap; a smack that not only was going to blush the beaten cheek, but also the other. It is the flush of shame that, in turn, the crowd perceives, booing the executioner's assistant.

Charlotte Corday (1899). Oil on canvas by Arturo Michelena.
Charlotte Corday (1899). Oil on canvas by Arturo Michelena.

The guillotine would not stop working in France until September 1977. The last head to fall into the basket would be Hamida Djandoubi, sentenced to death for murdering his former partner. Until then, the invention of terminal surgery applied to crime, had originated scientific opinions very diverse in what refers to the subject of suffering, when the head is separated from the body.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Dr. Gabriel Beaurieux attended the execution by guillotine of Henri Languille. The doctor noticed the movements of the eyes and mouth, once the blade had severed the head of the body. Not content, the doctor grabbed his freshly cut head and called out his name: "Languille!" The same Beaurieux tells how the eyelids were raised, without spasms, in a peculiar way and how the eyes woke up, nailing into his.

In the end, among all, they were going to make it true what the executioner's assistant had in Dumas' story, when he claimed to be forced to change his basket every three months because the heads tore them apart with the rage of his teeth.

The stone ax It's a section where Montero Glez, with a desire for prose, exercises its particular siege on scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.

You can follow MATTER in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or subscribe here to our Newsletter.


Source link