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Joseph Carey Merrick
5 August 1862
|Died||11 April 1890 (aged 27)|
|Other names||John Merrick|
Medical research subject
|Parent(s)||Mary Jane Potterton|
Joseph Rockley Merrick
Joseph Carey Merrick (5 August 1862 – 11 April 1890) was an Englishman. His face and body were deformed because of an illness. To earn money, he was shown at freak shows. He was called the Elephant Man. He then became famous after he went to live at the London Hospital. Some people who wrote about him wrongly thought he was called John Merrick.
Merrick was born in Leicester, England. He started to become deformed when he was very young. He was also disabled after he hurt his hip. When he was 10, his mother died and his father married another woman. Merrick left school aged 13 and tried to find a job but it was difficult because he was deformed and disabled. His father and stepmother did not want him at home so he left home. When he was 17, he went to live in a workhouse.
In 1884 Merrick wrote to a showman called Sam Torr. Merrick asked Torr to show him as a "freak" exhibition. Torr showed Merrick around the East Midlands, and then Merrick went to London. He stayed in a shop on Whitechapel Road. People would pay to look at him. A surgeon, Frederick Treves, came to see Merrick and took photographs of him. Soon afterwards, Merrick's shop was closed by the police and he went to Belgium.
In Belgium, Merrick was robbed by his manager and left in Brussels alone. He found his way back to London. Frederick Treves took him to the London Hospital where Treves worked. Merrick was allowed to live there for the rest of his life. Rich and famous people of Victorian London came to visit him there.
Merrick died on 11 April 1890, aged 27. He died of either asphyxia (not being able to breathe properly) or a broken neck. He had tried to lie down to go to sleep, but his head was too heavy for him to do that. Today, nobody knows for sure what was wrong with Merrick. Scientists think that he either had an illness called neurofibromatosis type I, one called Proteus syndrome, or both of these illnesses. In 1980, movie director David Lynch made a movie about Merrick. It is called The Elephant Man.
- Howell, Michael; Ford, Peter (1992), The True History of the Elephant Man (3rd ed.), London: Penguin Books,
- Osborne, Peter; Harrison, B. (September 2004), "Merrick, Joseph Carey [Elephant Man] (1862–1890)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press),
, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37759, retrieved 11 July 2010