“Here lies the decayed Girolamo Segato, who could have been totally petrified, if his art had not died with him.” (The strange Doctor Segato’s epitaph)
To our own personal amazement, the Human race has always shown a peculiar tendency to spawn a wide swath of eccentric characters. And there is ample evidence that no other segment of our homo sapien population has exhibited a stranger collection of freakish people than doctors.
Consider the case of the very odd Doctor Girolamo Segato, who was born in a Catholic monastery in northern Italy, on June 13th, 1792. As he grew into adulthood, this fellow became resolutely focused – not on religion, mind you – but on the methods and the chemicals that could keep dead bodies from decomposing. So at age 26, he traveled to Egypt and studied their mummies.
The man was mesmerized by the art and science of “petrifaction” and did indeed eventually discover a particular procedure – apparently unknown to anyone else on earth – which allowed him to obtain amazing results – far beyond anything the Egyptians ever created. Back home in Italy, Girolamo Segato would gather bodies secretly, without the families knowing, from hospitals and grave diggers. And then, with nary a neighbor the wiser, he set about the midnight business of turning people into stone. Take a look:
A display of Segato’s petrified human body parts can be seen at the Anatomical Museum of the University of Florence, including a woman’s head, breasts and even a table with inlaid designs made of mummified human tissue.
What look like polished stones in the table are, in fact, human organs – preserved, cut into geometric shapes and designed into a colorful mosaic.
The female head has been studied by modern exams, such as CT scans and x-rays. A 1” hole in the side of the skull is easily seen, proving that Segato did in fact inject something. And although nobody knows what it was, the liquid did extend into even the smallest of blood vessels throughout the body. In order to do this, the blood could not have been coagulated. Which means the head needed to be injected almost immediately after death.
Recent studies have disclosed little-known contacts between Segato and American doctors, who were extremely interested in his work. But Segato had destroyed all of his laboratory notes, and his sudden death on February 2, 1836, prevented the world from ever learning his secret methods of turning human bodies into stone.
(We are indebted to the staff of the Universita Degli Studi Firenze, Italy)