Kings College London

The Gordon Museum acquires a new specimen

The Gordon Museum of Pathology at Guy’s campus has welcomed an unusual new specimen: the mummified body of Torquay taxi-driver Alan Billis who died in 2011.

Mr Billis, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2009, volunteered to have his body mummified by a team headed by Dr Stephen Buckley and archaeologist Dr Jo Fletcher, after seeing an advertisement in a local newspaper.

After passing away in January 2011, an expert team of forensic scientists removed Mr Billis’ organs and placed them in jars. In keeping with Egyptian tradition, his heart remained in his body, together with his brain.

The body was dried out in a chamber, before being wrapped in bandages.

The process was filmed for a Channel 4 documentry, Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret, which won a Bafta in 2012 for best Specialist Factual programme.

The Gordon Museum is home to a number of unique pathology artefacts, including Lister’s antiseptic spray and the original specimens of kidneys, adrenal glands and lymph nodes which led Richard Bright, Thomas Addison and Thomas Hodgkin to describe the medical conditions that bear their names.

‘Alan Billis’s mummy will continue to have an active educative purpose for medical anatomists, bio-archaeologists, archaeological chemists and archaeologists’ generally.’ said Bill Edwards, Curator of the Gordon Museum. ‘But the project also serves to highlight the extreme importance of selfless donors to medical education and research, without whom our work would be impossible.’

While the Museum is not open to the general public, it is open to Guy’s, Saint Thomas’ and King’s staff, students and graduates, as well as staff and students of the Nightingale School. Access is also available to medical workers on request. For more information please visit their website


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