Jeremy Bentham

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Jeremy Bentham’s “Auto-icon” | Wikipedia | 14255

Jeremy Bentham was born on 15 February 1748 and died on 6 June 1832 and was a British philosopher and social reformer who advocated the decriminalisation of homosexuality as early as 1785 – but his argument was not made public at the time.

He was born in Houndsditch to a wealthy family and it is alleged that he began reading Latin at the age of three. He went to Oxford University when he was 12.

His essay Offences Against One’s Self, argued for the liberalisation of laws prohibiting homosexual sex. The essay remained unpublished during his lifetime for fear of offending public morality. It was published for the first time in 1931.

Bentham did not condone homosexuality, did not believe them to be unnatural, but “irregularities of the venereal appetite”. He thought homosexual sex a largely private offence, while public displays or forced acts were correctly dealt with by other laws.

Bentham’s funeral was somewhat unusual. Bentham died on 6 June 1832 the age of 84 at his residence in Queen Square Place in Westminster, London. His skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, pictured, which was acquired by University College London in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college.

He is understood to have never married.


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