Joseph MerrickMedical Curiosity
Born: 5 August 1862
Died: 11 April 1890 (Natural causes)
Birthplace: Leicester, England
Best known as: The man called The Elephant Man
Joseph Merrick was called the Elephant Man because of the abnormal masses of flesh which began growing on his face and body when he was a child. (Merrick was first presumed to have elephantiasis
and later neurofibramatosis
, but more recent studies have suggested that Merrick suffered from a still rarer affliction called Proteus Syndrome, or possibly from a combination of Proteus Syndrome and type 1 neurofibromatosis, called NF1.) Treated as a freak for much of his life, Joseph Merrick eventually found work as a sideshow attraction. He was later befriended by surgeon Frederick Treves and ended his days as a permanent resident of London's Whitechapel Hospital, where he died at age 27. His story was revived by the 1980 movie The Elephant Man
, directed by David Lynch
and starring John Hurt as Merrick.
Joseph Merrick states in his autobiography that he was born in 1860, but the true year is believed to be 1862… Dr. Treves, in his memoirs, refers to Merrick as “John.” This has often led to confusion about Merrick’s true name, which was Joseph… Despite 1980s rumors, pop star Michael Jackson did not buy the Elephant Man’s bones… The 1980 movie includes the famous line “I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!”
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