University College London Moves Jeremy Bentham's Auto-Icon to a New Location

Eden, Janine and Jim, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Eden, Janine and Jim, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As far as human remains go, the auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham is well-traveled. The model of the British philosopher—consisting of a wax head and a foam body built around his actual skeleton—has been displayed in England, Germany, and recently at The Met Breuer in New York City. Bentham's latest trip was a short one, taking him from a set of wooden boxes at University College London to a glass display glass in the school, but it could be his last move for a while, Atlas Obscura reports.

Bentham has become just as famous for the unusual fate of his corpse as for his accomplishments in life. Born in England in 1748, the philosopher was an outspoken proponent of utilitarianism, or the axiom that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong."

This principle carried over into his end-of-life wishes. Following his death in 1832, Bentham's body was dissected, reassembled, and preserved as an "auto-icon," per a request laid out in his will. This way, he could "attend" meetings, keep his friends company, and entertain spectators even in death. He had hoped to kick off a trend of what he called the "farther uses of the dead to the living."

The full extent of his vision was never realized. The method used to preserve his head had ghoulish results, so his mummified noggin was stored in a climate-controlled room and replaced with a wax replica. The trend of transforming dead bodies into dummies also never took off, and Bentham's auto-icon remains an anomaly.

When they weren't on tour, Bentham's remains were usually kept in a box within a box in a side corridor of University College London, their home since 1850. In February 2020, the college took the model apart and put it back together for display at the new student center across campus. The new semi-permanent location met the right conservation requirements for light, temperature, and humidity. And inside its new glass case, the auto-icon is clearly presented for passersby to see.

By displaying him in a prominent spot, the college hopes to fulfill Bentham's wishes of bringing the most joy to the most people long after his death. As he wrote in one of his final essays: "Of the de mortuis nil nisi bonum [of the dead, speak nothing but good], it would be the best application: it would extract from the dead only that which is good—that which would contribute to the happiness of the living. It would set curiosity in motion—virtuous curiosity."

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Turn Your Couch or Bed Into an Office With This Comfortable Lap Desk


If you're not working in an office right now, you'll understand the freedom of taking a Zoom meeting from your back porch, jotting down notes from your bed, and filling out spreadsheets from your sofa. But working from home isn't always as comfortable as everyone thinks it is, especially if you're trying to get through the day while balancing a notebook, computer, and stationery on your lap. To give you the space you need while maintaining your well-earned place on the couch, LapGear has the perfect solution to your problems with their lap desk, which you can find on Amazon for $35.

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

With more than 6000 reviews and a 4.8-star rating on Amazon, the lap desk can fit laptops and tablets up to 15.6 inches across and includes an integrated 5-inch-by-9-inch mouse pad and cell phone slot for better organization. There's even a ledge built into the desk to help keep your device from sliding when you're at an angle.

For some added comfort, the bottom of the desk is designed with dual-bolster cushions, so you'll never have to feel a hot laptop on your thighs again. The top surface is available in various colors like white marble ($30), silver carbon ($35), and oak woodgrain ($35) to work with your design aesthetic.

Find out more about LapGear’s lap desk here on Amazon.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Profane Polly: Expletive-Spewing Parrots Have Been Removed From an England Zoo

"F*ck off!"
"F*ck off!"
AndreaLynnStocker/iStock via Getty Images

In any business, it’s important to make customers feel welcome. Having employees or representatives immediately begin launching expletives and insults, for example, would offend patrons and lead to mixed or negative online reviews.

That’s likely one reason Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, a zoo in eastern England, opted to remove five parrots from the main park after the birds greeted visitors by telling them to “f*ck off.”

According to CNN, the avian agitators were recently donated to the park by five different owners and immediately made their temperaments known. The African grey parrots labeled one employee “fat” and launched other insults whenever staff or guests would walk by their enclosure.

While some guests enjoyed the profane banter, their laughter only encouraged the parrots to continue swearing. Park officials worried that visitors would be bothered by the four-letter-filled ranting and decided to remove the birds from public display.

The birds haven’t been kicked out of the park entirely. Employees are hoping a cooling-down period might help the parrots adjust. But being with other birds could also provide them with an opportunity to become a bad influence.

Steve Nichols, chief executive of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, told the BBC that he's "hoping" the birds will learn more appropriate words, "but if they teach the others bad language and I end up with 250 swearing birds, I don't know what we'll do."

[h/t CNN]