X Close

Museums & Collections Blog

Home

News and musings from the UCL Culture team

Menu

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits

JackAshby18 October 2017

Our current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition with the UCL researchers who helped put it together.

Guest post by Dr Alan Bates (UCL Pathology)

How did Mary Toft – a peasant from Godalming in Surrey – convince some of the eighteenth century’s leading medical men that she was giving birth to rabbits?

Mary Toft, a copy of a portrait made in 1727 as Mary languished in Bridewell prison, while lawyers considered whether rabbit breeding was actually a crime. (C) Wellcome Library, London

Mary Toft, a copy of a portrait made in 1727 as Mary languished in Bridewell prison, while lawyers considered whether rabbit breeding was actually a crime.
(C) Wellcome Library, London

Fake news out of Surrey

The story first appeared in 1726, when a London journal reported that Mary had given birth to a creature ‘resembling’ a rabbit, but with its heart and lungs outside its body. In the following days, four more dead rabbits appeared. They were blamed on the theory of maternal impressions – that a child resembled whatever the mother was thinking of at the time of conception. Obviously, a good woman should be thinking about her partner at this key moment, but a child’s resemblance to some other man of her acquaintance might (perhaps conveniently for all concerned) be accounted for by a wandering imagination. Mary had supposedly seen rabbits hunted while she was pregnant, miscarried, and since then had had bunnies on the brain. (more…)

Specimen of the Week : Week 178

Tannis M NDavidson10 March 2015

Scary-Monkey-Week-Nine Happy almost springtime! Longer days and brighter skies herald the coming of the change of season. This year the official start of Spring will be marked by a total solar eclipse on March 20 (get your eclipse glasses ready). When the sun re-emerges from behind the moon, both man and beast can rejoice in the return of the light and the promise of rejuvenation.

Here at the Museum, it is also time to clean the shelves, tidy the office, refresh the displays and present a brand-new exhibition. From 16 March to 27 June join us for Stange Creatures: The art of unknown animals and explore the world of animal representation.

While springtime has many different meanings and associations, including representative animals, one animal is perhaps most symbolic of this time of year. In honour of this most springy of selections, this week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)