Thomas N. Howell

From Ohio History Central

During the 1800s, medical schools routinely stole recently-buried cadavers to demonstrate medical procedures to their students. Cadavers from across Ohio were illegally exhumed for this purpose. Perhaps the most famous person illegally exhumed was John Scott Harrison from Congress Green Cemetery in North Bend, Ohio. Harrison was the son of President William Henry Harrison and the father of President Benjamin Harrison. Family members soon discovered Harrison's body at the Ohio Medical College in Cincinnati, Ohio, and eventually placed the corpse in the Harrison Tomb near his parents' remains.

To prevent grave-robbing from occurring, numerous people tried to develop inventions to deter the robbers. Former Probate Judge Thomas N. Howell of Circleville, Ohio, who was born in Darke County, Ohio, on February 9, 1823, developed an exploding shell that was buried underground above a coffin. If robbers tried to dig up the coffin, the shell would explode, injuring or killing the thieves. Howell received a patent for this device on December 20, 1881.

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