Dr. Andrew Ure, (1778 – 1857), was a Scottish scholar, chemist, and doctor. He was a Professor of Natural Philosophy, specializing in chemistry and physics, at the Andersonian Institution in Glasgow in 1804. His evening lectures on chemistry and mechanics enjoyed considerable success. But Dr. Ure had a slightly darker side. A popular idea of his day was that electricity was the key to life and could be used to reanimate dead bodies, bringing them back to life.
In 1818 Ure revealed the experiments he had been carrying out on the corpse of a murderer/thief named Matthew Clydesdale, after the man had been executed by hanging. He decided to perform one of his experiments in front of an audience of his fellow doctors and students. He explained to his audience his belief that in cases of suffocation, drowning or hanging, that life could be restored by stimulating the phrenic and supraorbital nerves. Ure then began his experiment.
He proceeded to cut into the corpse and insert electrodes into the incisions. At first, the corpse actually simulated breathing. When the supraorbital nerve was excited, Dr. Ure states, “…every muscle in his countenance was simultaneously thrown into fearful action; rage, horror, despair, anguish, and ghastly smiles, united their hideous expressions in the murderer’s face…” The scene took an even more bizarre turn when one of Ure’s assistants was actually kicked by the corpse, sending him flailing to the floor. The display proved too much, as most of the audience quickly fled the scene. One man was so taken aback by what he saw, he passed out.