Uses of a dead soldier

by Fred Ray on May 30, 2008 · 0 comments

No, I’m not trying to be funny. However, a good deal of what we know about the modern forensics of body decomposition comes from the researches of Dr. Bill Bass, who runs the Body Farm near Knoxville, TN. Bass got started on this in the early 70s after finding the corpse of a white male aged 24 to 28 years. He confidently announced that the man had been dead for about a year, but it turned out that the individual in question was Colonel William Shy, who had been killed at the battle of Franklin in 1864.

Now two researchers are using a huge boneyard of Civil War casualties to determine things like how close an injury was to the time of death. One current project is the examination of the skull of Union cavalryman James Bedell, split open at Gettysburg by a saber.

Armed with little more than a magnifying glass, Lenore Barbian, a forensic anthropologist at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, and her colleague, Paul Sledzik, pored over more than 100 cranial fragments in varying states of healing after gunshot, bayonet, or saber wounds. Like Bedell, some soldiers survived for weeks after their injuries. Barbian and Sledzik were able to identify distinct healing processes in damaged crania and calculate the amount of time that elapsed after injuries occurred. Match the two, and you get an idea of how much time has passed since an injury occurred simply by looking at the changes in the bone.

Seems those old soldiers will still be able to serve their country!

The skulls and bones are stored in what began as the Army Medical Museum in 1862, established by Surgeon General William Hammond, later the Armed Forces Museum of Pathology and now the National Museum of Health and Medicine. They recently celebrated a birthday and even have their own blog, A Repository for Bottled Monsters.

Via Cronaca

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