Black Death

The Black Death pandemic of 1349 is considered to be one of the major events in world history, and it is still the subject of medical, historical, and sociological analysis. The evidence of the plague is found in the broad swath it cut across North Africa, Asia, and Europe, its terrifying symptoms, and its impact on society.

Black Stork

From 1915 to 1919, the prominent Chicago surgeon Harry Haiselden electrified the nation by allowing, or speeding, the deaths of at least six infants he diagnosed as physically or mentally impaired. To promote his campaign to eliminate those infants that he termed hereditarily "unfit," he displayed the dying babies and their mothers to journalists and wrote a book about them that was serialized for Hearst newspapers.

Bonsen, F. Z.

Friedrich zur Bonsen (1856–1938) was a professor of psychology at the University of Muenster, Westphalia and author of Between Life and Death: The Psychology of the Last Hour (1927). In his book, Bonsen presents knowledge of his time about death and dying and his own reflections in a very emotive style.

Brain Death

The term brain death is defined as "irreversible unconsciousness with complete loss of brain function," including the brain stem, although the heartbeat may continue. Demonstration of brain death is the accepted criterion for establishing the fact and time of death.

Brompton's Cocktail

In 1896 the English surgeon Herbert Snow showed that morphine and cocaine, when combined into an elixir, could give relief to patients with advanced cancer. About thirty years later a similar approach was used at London's Brompton Hospital as a cough sedative for patients with tuberculosis.

Brown, John

The abolitionist crusader John Brown died on December 2, 1859, executed by the state of Virginia for charges relating to treason, murder, and promoting a slave insurrection. Although Brown's public execution took place before the start of the U.S.


"Decay is inherent in all compounded things, so continue in watchfulness." The last recorded words of Siddhartha Gautama (Gotama), the founder of Buddhism, might be taken to mean, "Work out your own salvation with diligence" (Bowker 1997, p. 169).

Burial Grounds

Three kinds of gravescapes—that is, memorials and the landscapes containing them—have dominated the funerary scene in North America from colonial times to the present. The first, the graveyard, almost invariably is located in towns and cities, typically adjoined to a church and operated gratis or for a nominal fee by members of the congregation.

Buried Alive

"Buried alive"—the phrase itself frightens people with its thoughts of being enclosed in a narrow space with one's breathing air diminishing, helpless, and unable to escape. A 1985 Italian study of patients recovering from myocardial infarction, found that 50 percent of them suffered from phobias that included being buried alive.

Cadaver Experiences

Studies by sociologists have found that no experience has a more profound impact on medical school students than the first encounter with death, which typically occurs during the first-year course of gross anatomy. With its required dissection of human cadavers, the course seeks to impart a variety of explicit lessons, including the size, shape, and exact location of organs varies from one individual to another; organs vary in their "feel" and texture and are connected to other parts of the body in complex ways that textbook illustrations cannot effectively reproduce; and surgical instruments have specific purposes and must be handled properly to avoid injury to the patient or oneself.

Camus, Albert

Born in 1913, Albert Camus was a French philosopher, writer, and playwright of Algerian descent. Camus was confronted very early in his life by the contradictions that forged his conception of death.


To many people, the word cancer is synonymous with death; however, that is not the reality. In industrialized countries cancer mortality rates have slowly and progressively declined between 1950 and 2000.


Cannibalism, or anthropophagy, is the ingestion of human flesh by humans. The idea of people eating parts of other people is something that has occurred wherever and whenever humans have formed societies.

Capital Punishment

The death penalty, the most severe sanction or punishment a government entity can impose on an individual for a crime, has existed in some form throughout recorded history. The first known official codification of the death penalty was in eighteenth century B.C.E.

Cardiovascular Disease

The American Heart Association (AHA) uses the term cardiovascular disease (CVD) to describe various diseases that affect the heart and circulatory system. These diseases include coronary artery (heart) disease, hypertension, congestive heart failure, congenital cardiovascular defects, and cerebrovascular disease.


Burial places for the dead come in a variety of forms. One ancient form is the catacomb, an underground city of the dead consisting of galleries or passages with side recesses for tombs.


In Roman Catholicism, death has been understood primarily in terms of an issue of justice. Having turned away from God, humans are deprived of the life-giving energy that they need and which is to be found solely in God.

Causes of Death

Data on the causes of death provide an important source of information on death. Such data are crucial for monitoring the reasons why people die and for targeting where, when, and how health resources should be expended.

Celebrity Deaths

In 1999 nearly 100 people showed up at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to visit the grave of the silent-screen heartthrob Rudolf Valentino on the seventy-third anniversary of his death. When the victim of acute peritonitis was buried at age thirty-one in 1926, 80,000 people showed up for the funeral.

Cell Death

Cell death is a vital and common occurrence. In humans, some 10 billion new cells may form and an equal number die in a single day.

Cemeteries and Cemetery Reform

When death strikes in society certain events and rituals must be undertaken. The decaying of the corpse and beliefs about death make the presence of the dead person among the living unacceptable.

Cemeteries, Military

After 174 years, twenty-eight American Revolutionary War soldiers were returned in aluminum coffins by Canada for burial in the United States in 1988. A dozen years later, the United States was annually spending $6 million to locate and retrieve the remains of fewer than 2,000 American MIAs from Military cemeteries, designated to honor men and women who served in national defense, are becoming overcrowded, forcing them to close.