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The Philosopher's DNA

Researchers are to test the DNA of philosopher Jeremy Bentham when his severed head goes on display, the Telegraph reports. Bentham, who died in 1832, is known for his work on modern utilitarianism.

Bentham had requested that his body be preserved after he died, and he was on display for some 150 years, but the Telegraph notes that the mummification process went a bit awry and because of that, his head was deemed too "distasteful" to be in public. But it adds that he is now to be part of an exhibit on death and preservation at University College London.

Because of some of Bentham's personality traits, the Telegraph notes that researchers in 2006 posited that he might have had Asperger's syndrome. Bentham's DNA is being collected for testing to see whether he carries any of the genetic variants linked to Asperger's or autism spectrum disorder.

The curator of collections at UCL Culture, Subhadra Das, tells the paper that they are working with researchers at the Natural History Museum who've studied ancient DNA on this. Das adds that much of the DNA sampled from his mouth has turned out to be from bacteria, "[s]o it may be tricky to come to a firm conclusion."

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