The collection of post mortem volumes covers over 100 years of medical advancements, historical events and social and cultural changes. The collection contains 102 volumes, and the volumes catalogued in the first phase of project, until 1920, contain over 27,000 cases.
Some of these cases contain illustrations and even photographs. Most of the cases, however, are not illustrated, and in order to explore some of the aspects hidden within the data, we have been using digital tools to uncover some of these details and show the variety contained in these volumes. The visualisations on this page are made using Flourish and are a work in progress - we will be adding more data as we go along!
Within the catalogue, instead of using the term 'cause of death', we decided to use 'diseases'. In many cases the notes do not simply record a single cause of death, but multiple diseases, ailments and pathological symptoms discovered in the course of the medical and post mortem examinations. An ulcer or a cut might not therefore have been the eventual cause of death, but is included as part of the list of symptoms listed in the case, and a fracture or an infection might have led to sepsis causing the death of the patient.
We can also compare the statistics between different years and across the period the post mortems cover. Looking at the age groups of those who died at the St George's Hospital, we can see that life expectancy was not very high. The first volumes, however, are not as careful to record all the data, and the 'unknowns' appear as the largest group. The chart includes percentage of the post mortems in a given year, with the patients grouped into age groups (0-9, 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80-89, 90-99 and unknown).
Perhaps surprisingly, the post mortem volumes are a rich source for studying life - and not only death - in 19th century London. The majority of the cases record the occupations of the patients. The visualisation above can be used to explore the collection as a whole, or to dive in deeper to particular years. For an overview of the occupations found in the data, see our blog post on the subject.