21 Grams: The Weight of The Soul

What is a soul? Can it be touched? Does it have mass? These questions tormented Duncan MacDougall, a physician from Haverhill, Massachusetts, so much that he devised an experiment to determine whether souls have physical weight. 

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“The soul leaving the body” by Luigi Schiavonetti, circa 1810.

MacDougall postulated that the soul was material and therefore, there should be a measurable drop in the weight of a person when the soul departed the body. In 1901, MacDougall selected six terminally ill patients from a nursing home, four suffering from tuberculosis, one from diabetes, and one from unspecified causes. MacDougall specifically chose people who were suffering from conditions that caused physical exhaustion, as he needed the patients to remain still when they died to measure them accurately. MacDougall then rigged a special bed in his office that sat upon an industrial sized platform beam scale sensitive to two-tenths of an ounce, or about 5.6 grams. Upon this bed he placed, in succession, the six patients, and observed them before, during, and after their death, measuring any corresponding changes in weight. MacDougall meticulously recorded his observations:

Source: amusingplanet.com

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