Forensic Scientist Nicolae Minovici Hung Himself to Research Death by Hanging

Nicolae Minovici

Nicolae Minovici  was a Romanian forensic science and criminology researcher born in Ramnicu Sarat on October 23, 1868. Minovici earned a Ph.D. in forensic science in 1898, having also studied psychiatry and pathological anatomy at Saint Sava National College. By 1905 he was working as a professor of forensic science at the State School of science in Bucharest. In his free time, Minovici was hanging himself for the sake of science. The professor had begun a comprehensive study on death by hanging and decided he wanted to know first hand what it would feel like to die in this manner. For his initial experiment, Minovici constructed an auto-asphyxiation device which consisted of a non-contracting noose which ran through a pulley attached to the ceiling. Nicolae Minovici would then lay on a cot, place the noose around his neck, and pull the other end of the rope as hard as he could. On his first attempt he noted that as the noose began to tighten his face turned a purple-red, his vision blurred and he began to hear a whistling in his head. It only took about 6 seconds before he began to lose consciousness and the experiment ended as he lost his grip on the rope. In the second phase of Minovici’s hanging experiments, he used a non contracting noose as before, this time bringing in assistants. Once the noose was placed around the forensic scientist’s neck his assistants pulled on the rope, lifting Nicolae several feet into the air.  Immediately after being lifted from the ground, he began experiencing intense pain as his eyes involuntarily shut and his respiratory tract closed; He signaled for his assistants to let him down after only a few seconds. Afterwards, he conducted the same experiment several more times, documenting, “I let myself hang six to seven times for four to five seconds to get used to it.”. Eventually, Minovici was able to work his way up to hanging for up to 25 seconds in this manner before needing to be lowered by his assistants.The repeated attempts at hanging for extended periods of time left him in pain for two weeks. In the third and final experiment, Nicolae Minovici used a contracting noose, generally used in hanging deaths as opposed to the non-contracting noose used in his previous experiments. Once again, his assistants would lift him into the air and lower him when given a signal. This time, there was intense constriction of the noose and an instant, burning pain in his neck. He was only able to endure four seconds and his feet never even left the ground.

Fig. 6. – A. B, bruising from the incomplete hanging: C, bruising from the complete hanging.
Nicolae Minovici

The trauma he sustained to his neck during the final experiment made it extremely painful to swallow for one month, later commenting, “Despite of all our courage we could not fake any longer than three to four seconds.”. During this time, Nicolae Minovici also conducted choking experiments on volunteers by applying pressure to their carotid arteries and jugular until the volunteer’s face turned red. Those who participated later described experiencing vision problems, a sensation of heat in the head and paresthesia which caused tingling and numbing sensations in multiple places on the body (“pins and needles” feeling). His research, which also detailed nearly 200 hanging cases, types of knots, and various people’s reaction to this manner of death, entitled  Study on Hanging, was published in Romania in 1904 and France in 1905. Nicolae Minovici was either one of the greatest (and most ballsy) scientists who has ever lived, or he had some very special fetishes which he was able to gratify in a rather ingenious way. Whatever the case may be, he has certainly gone on to be a scientist worth familiarizing yourself with and a favorite among lovers of the bizarre. Nicolae Minovici also researched connections between tattooing and criminal behavior during his career. He was the founder of the Legal Medicine Association of Romania, head of Romania’s anthropometric service and publisher of the Romanian Journal of Legal Medicine. Minovici also established the first ambulance and emergency medical service in the Balkans which he financed the entire cost of for several years with his own money. He served as mayor of Baneasa Bucharest and became an avid collector of Romanian Folk Art. Nicolae Minovici died on June 26, 1941 at the age of 72 from an illness which affected his vocal cords (Gee, I wonder how that happened?). Having died a bachelor, Minovici left his entire estate to the country he had loved so much. His home in northern Bucharest and collection of Romanian folk art was donated to Romania along with his hard-earned fortune. The former home of Nicolae Minovici, which was designed by architect Cristofi Cerkez, was opened to the public in 1906 as an ethnological museum and houses his expansive collection of Romanian folk art. The museum remains today and is currently undergoing major renovations to preserve the historic home.
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Learn more about Nicolae Minovici
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