People have always been fascinated with the moment of death. Do we have souls? If we do, where do they go when we die?
There have been very few experiments to actually try and prove the existence of a soul. However one man decided to set out and try and find the answer to this question. Duncan MacDougall (1866 – 1920) was a doctor who lived in Massachusetts. He wanted to find out if there was a difference in weight of a person prior to death and immediately after death. His theory proposed that any change in weight would be due to a person’s soul leaving the body.
In 1901, he was given permission to carry out his experiment on six terminally ill patients. He rigged up a bed on a giant set of scales. He kept monitoring the weight and just after the patient had died he would record the new death weight. In four out of the six, he said there was a noticeable difference in weight after they had died, although that weight did vary. In the end MacDougall proposed that the soul did in fact weight 21 grams.
MacDougall’s experiment was eventually disregarded due to the fact that he seemed to only look at the result that supported his theory. The actual results from all six experiments tend to disagree with his rather biased reporting. Only one patient lost any significant weight, two patients were excluded from the study due to equipment malfunction, one lost weight and then put it straight back on again and the remaining two lost weight at death, but then lost more weight a short while later.