Day in History 11 April – Joseph Merrick

On this day in 1890, the man with severe deformities who was exhibited as a human curiosity and known as The Elephant Man, Joseph Carey Merrick died in The London Hospital (now known as the Royal London Hospital) at the age of 27.  The exact cause of Merrick’s deformities is unclear.  It is thought that Merrick suffered from either neurofibromatosis type I or Proteus syndrome or perhaps both.  He was befriended by Dr. Frederick Treves who tried to diagnose and treat Merrick’s condition and saw to it that Merrick could stay at The London Hospital.  The Final Footprint – Merrick donated his body to science.  His skeleton was mounted and remains in the pathology collection at the Royal London Hospital.  Merrick’s life story became the basis of a Tony Award-winning play and an Oscar nominated movie.  The play, The Elephant Man (1979), by playwright Bernard Pomerance, featured Philip Anglim, and later David Bowie as Merrick.  The film, The Elephant Man (1980), directed by David Lynch, featured John Hurt as Merrick and Anthony Hopkins as Frederick Treves.

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