Extending his Grasp on Science even after Death

The statue of Sir Thomas Browne stands in the Haymarket in Norwich, often covered by birds, and occasionally wearing a traffic cone on his head. But how many people passing by really know who Sir Thomas Browne is. Hopefully, with the launch of Talking Statues, the statue of Sir Thomas Browne, voiced by Adam Buxton, will be able to give people an understanding of the man himself.

The man himself

Sir Thomas Browne was a well know scientist and medical doctor. Although born in London in 1605, he settled in Norwich in 1637 and practiced medicine there for the rest of his life.

Finding his remains

His interest in these subjects continued into his death. Browne died on 19 October 1682 and was buried in his parish church of St Peter Mancroft on 24 October (NRO, PD 26/16). However his story doesn’t end there. Browne’s resting place in the chancel of St Peter Mancroft was accidentally disturbed in 1840 by workmen digging a grave for the Vicar’s wife, and the skull and coffin plate (which was broken into two pieces) were removed. They were among the subjects chosen for a new photographic process, the calotype, patented in 1841 and popular for the next decade.

pd 26,16 -ed

The original burial of Thomas Browne, 1682. NRO, PD 26/16

Looking after the skull

The skull was presented to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in 1845, and remained in the hospital’s museum for more than 75 years. It was reburied in the chancel of St Peter Mancroft church following the issue of a faculty in 1922 (NRO, PD 26/41).

pd 26,189-ed

The Burial of Thomas Browne’s Skull. NRO, PD 26/189

The Norfolk Record Office holds a number of documents relating to Thomas Browne, including letters, manuscripts of some of his books and his will. They were displayed in an exhibition in the Long Gallery. Information on some of the documents are included in Thomas Browne

 

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