Sunday, 13 March 2011

Lethal Lighthouses

It's been a bit of a grey cold weekend for getting out and about, so an indoor trip to the "Shining Lights" exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland seemed in order. Truth be told, it wasn't that fascinating, being mostly bits of old lighthouse lens. It did, however, have a curious lump of lead.

This picture comes off the net- the real thing is simply a lump of metal. It has a story behind it, though. It came from Henry Hall, who was a lighthouse keeper on Eddystone, when it was a wooden tower. It burned down in 1755. Mr Hall, in escaping, looked upwards just as a lump of molten lead descended. He swallowed it (shades of the Bass Rock and bird poo).
He did live for some time afterwards. The lump of lead was removed from his stomach at autopsy, carried out by a surgeon called Mr Spry. Apparently the Royal Society didn't believe that Mr Hall could have lived for any time at all, and Mr Spry was a bit miffed. To prove his point, he carried out various experiments on dropping lead down the throats of dogs- the start of a long line of scientific cruelty on animals.
Things haven't improved a lot of the centuries. Next time you're shivering cold in the middle of rescue practice remember that a lot of current medical knowledge on hypothermia comes from Nazi experiments on Jews.

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