"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": The Bishop's Rectum

Earlier this week, I challenged readers to send me photos of their favorite museum exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. Over the next few days, I'll be posting some of these submissions, under the heading, "My Favorite Museum Exhibit". Want to see them all? Check the "Previously" links at the bottom of this post.

It's "My Favorite Museum Exhibit"—celebrity edition. Marc Abrahams is the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, the journal that awards the annual Ig-Nobel Prizes. He sent me this: An actual rectum cut from the corpse of the Bishop of Durham. It resides in London's Hunterian Museum.

Here's the museum's description of Object RCSHC/P 192, as quoted by Abrahams in a 2010 Guardian column:

A rectum showing the effects of both haemorrhoids and bowel cancer. The patient in this case was Thomas Thurlow (1737-1791), the Bishop of Durham. Thurlow had suffered from some time from a bowel complaint, which he initially thought was the result of piles. He consulted John Hunter after a number of other physicians and surgeons had failed to provide him with a satisfactory diagnosis. Hunter successfully identified the tumour through rectal examination, but recognised that it was incurable. Thurlow died 10 months later.

Previously in this series:

My Favorite Museum Exhibit: Arab Courier Attacked by Lions



  1. Hunter successfully identified the tumor through rectal examination…in 1791.

    I’m more curious about HOW than the actual exhibit.

    1. “Hunter wrote extensive notes about how he entered the case, examined the rectum (which at the time was, of course, still an integral part of the bishop), and immediately recognised, by feel, that it had an incurable tumour.”

  2. From the depths of the crypt at St Giles
    Came a scream that resounded for miles.
    Said the vicar, “Good gracious!
    Has Father Ignatius
    Forgotten the Bishop has piles?”

  3. Ughh… I mean really ughhh… I’m a science teacher with my own collection of preserved nasties… but this… ughhh…

  4. I love Boing Boing and I read it almost every day. But why is every other story so engrossing, monstrous or something the like? Am I the only one to think like that?

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