William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Friday, 29, April, 2011


Filed under: Blogania,Boomstick — williamthecoroner @ 21:22

After a very wet drive through the mountains, I arrived in Pittsburgh and got off the freeway right by the convention center.  And the city was jammed, with no parking nearby.  After fllling around for an hour, I parked at a distant lot and took a cab.  On the way I was nearly run over  by a billboard truck with an anti-gun message on it, referred to as a “street blimp.”  All I can say is it drove like one.

But I did arrive in one piece, went upstairs, and did meet up with Breda, Alan, Old NFO, Bubblehead Les, We’erd Beard and New Jovian Thunderbolt.  And there were mature adults shaking hands and introducing themselves by their internet handles, which was just hysterically funny.

Interesting things were seen on the exhibit floor, of which more later.

Sappy Cat Blogging

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 06:45

<object style=”height: 390px; width: 640px”><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/dGrN3uWO_Rs?version=3″><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”></object> Kitty meets dolphin, two beings with a mutual love of fish.

Thursday, 28, April, 2011

Burke and Hare

Filed under: Forensics,History,Poetry,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 21:00

‘Round the town with Burke and Hare
Through the close and down the stair
Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief,
And Knox is the boy that buys the beef.

In the early 1800’s in England, the study of anatomy was severely hampered by the lack of suitable cadavers.  The specimens were usually executed criminals, who were sentenced to be hanged and then dissected, as a sort of insult after injury.  But the number of hanging offenses had been greatly reduced as a result of penal reforms at the turn of the century.  When there is a demand and a greatly restricted legal supply, extra-legal methods are employed to fill the demand.  Ressurectionists, also known as body-snatchers, would dig up recently buried cadavers and sell them to medical schools.

In the early 1800’s Edinburgh, Scotland was a boom town.  People were flooding into the area to work in industry and all sorts of public works projects to support that industry.  One of those projects was the Union Canal, connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow by water, to move coal and other raw materials between those industrial cities. The canal was built between 1818 and 1822.  William Hare and Brendan Burke emigrated from Ireland to work on the canal and stayed in Edinburgh working on the canal.  Hare married a widow who kept a boarding-house.  When one of their lodgers died without paying his rent, Hare sold the body to Dr. Robert Knox.

They realized that this work was profitable, and avoided all that hard work of messing around in graveyards with shovels.  However, not enough lodgers died of natural causes, so the pair began getting them drunk and suffocating them.  Hare would hold a pillow over their faces, and Burke would sit on their chests, killing and leaving very few marks on the body.  Burke and Hare killed seventeen victims between 1827 and 1828, taking them from the poor and indigent who lived in and near Hare’s boarding house.  Unfortunately, two of the victims were known to the students when they appeared on the dissecting table, and they were known to be in good health.

The authorities were notified, Hare turned King’s evidence and Burke was hanged on 26 January, 1829.  He was dissected by the medical students at Edinburgh University, and his death mask and skeleton can still be seen in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.  The popular outrage and need for anatomy education that the Burke and Hare case spotlighted lead to the passage of the Anatomy Act of 1832, and greatly increased the supply of cadavers for medical education purposes.  Hare was released from prison in February, 1829; Dr Knox eventually moved to London, where he still taught anatomy.  The house where Knox lived is now part of Edinburgh University Medical School.

Wednesday, 27, April, 2011


Filed under: Medicine,Poetry,Science,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 22:09

Just returned from the AΩΑ dinner, which was to honour the graduating medical students who had achieved honours in three or more of their core clerkships.  There were about twenty-one honourees.  The speaker was a neurosurgeon whose research on the effects of music on animal learning, particularly rodent spatial learning.  If you make rats listen to Mozart, they do better than control rats in the Morris Water Task.  His studies have shown increase in activity and increased dopamine in the hippocampi of rats exposed to music.

This effect seems to generalize to music and human learning.  If one sets material that one wishes to learn to music, one does better.  Of course, this information is not new.  The poets of ancient Greece and the Celtic lands sung their stores, just look at the Odyssey and the Story of Beowulf.  Rhythm and meter help the human brain organize information; it is interesting to see how it works on the cellular level.

Saturday, 23, April, 2011

Northern Ohio Bibliophilic Society

Filed under: Books — williamthecoroner @ 14:18

The annual NOBS book show is going on at the Knight Centre in Akron.  I’ve been going to this thing for years, now.  I really appreciated it when it was held in the Cleveland Armory, which is just a neat space, but parking is dismal.  For a couple of times they held it in an abandoned supermarket in Stow, which had plenty of parking but looked really, low rent.   The space at the Knight center is so large, it looked almost abandoned, and there weren’t that many people going to bookstores on a rainy Good Friday afternoon.

To prevent me from getting my own, personal, library (and needing my own personal library building) I have to limit myself.  It would be very, very easy for me to go into a book show  and say “I’ll take it”.  But moderation is a virtue, and though you would not know it from this blog, there are some things that I am not interested in.  Old unit histories from the Civil War, and things like that, I can pass by.

There were beautiful childrens’ books with wonderful lithographs.  You just don’t get illustrations like that with any other printing process.  There was a signed Wanda Gag Millions of Cats, but that was hideously expensive.  I saw lovely books by Holling Clancy Holling, and two that I had never seen before.  I searched for some of the early Robert B Parker that I’m looking for, with no joy, but they will come with time.

There was a beautiful book of watercolours done by Allied POWs in WWII, that was impressive, there were some copies of Lynd Ward’s novels in woodcuts, which have always intrigued me, and there was an elegant little volume about how to build, run, and feed your blast furnace, with exquisite illustrations and a lot of wad ruled paper in the back for your notes whilst running your own furnace.  That one was a hard one to pass by.

I was amazed by the number and variety of what is referred to as “black” titles.  The prototypical book of this genre is Little Black Sambo, but there were others, including “Tommy Frizzylocks”, with illustrations that you can imagine.  It really brought home how casual racism was in American society before WWII, that people wrote, edited, printed, and sold these books with a straight face, and they horrify people in the year 2011.

Friday, 22, April, 2011

Connie Shultz Does Not Know Any Teatoataling Shooters.

Filed under: Boomstick — williamthecoroner @ 14:42

She and I have never met.  She wrote an OP-Ed piece in the PD on 17 April, below is my reply.

Dear Ms. Shultz,

I read your op-ed piece opposing SB #17, which would allow people with valid concealed carry permits in places that serve alcohol.  As teaching forensic pathologist, I do not understand your opposition to this measure.  Since 2003, I have taught over 60 students firearms safety and weapon familiarization in my graduate courses.  While I heartily agree that no one should be impaired and in charge of a weapon (be that weapon a Colt .45, Ford F350, or Boeing 767) this law does not increase safety.  Instead, it increases the risk of weapons falling into the hands of the lawless, provides a concentrated group of unarmed victims for the lawless to prey on, and provides a way to transfer weapons into the hands of those who cannot purchase them legally.

Firstly, one cannot purchase a firearm legally if one has a felony record or is addicted to mind altering substances.  Secondly, if one is impaired and one uses a firearm improperly, that impairment is an aggravating factor, and one’s punishment will be correspondingly more severe.  Thirdly, people like to eat in bars; I do not wish to be an unarmed victim if I chose to have the fish fry at the Academy Tavern, or a meal at the Willoughby Brewing Company.  As Lott and Landes have shown [1] the suspected presence of concealed firearms deters villains, and they seek out areas where firearms are banned.  Places like schools, churches, and shopping areas.  Finally, to comply with the law, legally armed people would have to disarm and leave their firearms in their vehicles or other place outside.  It is a lot safer to steal a weapon from an unattended car than from a person.

My 1,600 autopsies and 12 years as a practicing forensic pathologist have made me an enthusiastic supporter of the right to bear arms and the second amendment.  If you are interested in learning more from me about my work and what shaped my opinion, you are more than welcome to sit in on my class at The Uni, ANAT 420.  My office # is [redacted].


William The Coroner

1.                    Lott, J.R. and Landes, W.M.  Multiple Victim Public Shootings, Bombings, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handgun Laws: Contrasting Private and Public Law Enforcement. University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 73. April, 1999

I believe it is too long for the paper to publish, and I doubt they would anyway.  We shall see if she takes me up on the offer.

Joisy Cat

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 08:32

Via Wyatt, we have this story of a calico moggie who washed up on New York’s Governor’s Island the other day.  The cat was wet, salty, and had seaweed sticking to it.  They think she was washed away by torrential rains in NJ and wound up on Governor’s Island.

She’s dry now, and is being taken care of.  People are looking for her owner, and she seems tame enough.  But that’s one tough kitty!

Blasphemous Sappy Cat Blogging

Filed under: Cat Blogging — williamthecoroner @ 01:17

Yanno, when you consider that Easter is a fertility festival, with all the iconography of chickies, and duckies, and bunnies and rebirth, saying “He has risen” takes on a whole new (double) meaning, now doesn’t it?

Thursday, 21, April, 2011

Ab Urba Condita

Filed under: History — williamthecoroner @ 13:09

It’s April 21.  Rome was founded on the Palatine Hill on this date, 2764 years ago.

Tuesday, 19, April, 2011

Concord Hymn

Filed under: History,In Memoriam,Poetry — williamthecoroner @ 09:01

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those spirits dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

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