UCL News


Jeremy Bentham makes surprise visit to UCL Council

10 July 2013

Jeremy Bentham was recorded as 'present but not voting' in acknowledgement of one of the most popular Bentham legends yesterday as he made a surprise appearance at Professor Sir Malcolm Grant's last ever UCL Council meeting.

Jeremy Bentham Provost

While the auto-icon normally resides at the end of the South Cloisters, one of the most commonly recounted stories is that the Auto-Icon regularly attends meetings of the College Council, and that it is solemnly wheeled into the Council Room to take its place among the present-day members. 

Its presence, it is claimed, is always recorded in the minutes with the words 'Jeremy Bentham - present but not voting'. Another version of the story asserts that the Auto-Icon does vote, but only on occasions when the votes of the other Council members are equally split. In these cases the Auto-Icon invariably votes for the motion.

The cabinet in the South Cloisters normally contains Bentham's preserved skeleton, dressed in his own clothes, and surmounted by a wax head. Bentham requested that his body be preserved in this way in his will made shortly before his death on 6 June 1832. The cabinet was moved to UCL in 1850.


Jeremy Bentham's auto-icon