Bones of Contention: The Medico-Legal Issues Relating to Charles Byrne, 'the Irish Giant'

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Abstract

This article engages with the medico-legal issues pertaining to the life and legacy of Charles Byrne, a celebrity Irish ‘giant’ who made a name for himself in Georgian Britain and whose remains are currently the subject of a highly controversial display in the Hunterian Museum, London. The article addresses Byrne’s historical life and times, then proceeds to consider both the contribution that his remains have made to medical research and a variety of legal issues relevant to his posthumous treatment. In the latter stages of the discussion it is observed that the Byrne exhibit at the Hunterian Museum raises issues that are directly pertinent to contemporary viewers of the display, most notably with respect to the issue of burial instruction; Byrne’s skeleton partially symbolises the onlooker’s own circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-166
JournalQueen's Political Review
Volume2
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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