Boris’s great grand mummy and a spooky bit of space rock

Fortean Times - - Strange Days -


Dur­ing ren­o­va­tion work on the Bar­füsser Church in Basel in 1975, a woman’s body wear­ing ex­pen­sive clothes was un­earthed in front of the al­tar. Known as “Switzer­land’s most fa­mous mummy”, the un­known woman’s body was rid­dled with mer­cury, a stan­dard treat­ment for syphilis from the late 15th to the 19th cen­tury. Highly toxic mer­cury treat­ment more of­ten killed than cured, and it was this that pre­served her body. The dis­cov­ery of new archives last year re­vealed that the mummy had been dis­cov­ered once be­fore, in 1843, and had been linked to a wealthy Basel fam­ily.

DNA from one of the mummy’s big toes was com­pared to ge­netic ma­te­rial from a sus­pected modern rel­a­tive. Not only was it a 99.8 per cent match, show­ing that the woman be­longed to the Bischoff fam­ily, but fur­ther archival re­search showed she was Anna Catha­rina Bischoff, born in 1719 in Basel, where she died in 1787. Ge­neal­o­gists showed that she is the seven-times great grand­mother of Bri­tain’s For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son. Anna Catha­rina mar­ried a cler­gy­man and spent most of her adult life in Stras­bourg. She may have con­tracted syphilis while car­ing for pa­tients with sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases. Af­ter the death of her hus­band she re­turned to Basel. BBC News, 25 Jan; D.Tele­graph, 26 Jan 2018.


As­ter­oid 2015 TB145 be­came nick­named the “Hal­loween as­ter­oid” af­ter its skull-like form whizzed by 300,000 miles (483,000km) from Earth on 31 Oc­to­ber 2015, just a lit­tle bit far­ther away from us than the Moon. This skull-like space rock, a slightly flat­tened el­lip­soid, mea­sures about 2,100ft (640m) across and is cat­e­gorised as a PHA (Po­ten­tially Haz­ardous As­ter­oid). It will ap­proach again next Novem­ber, when it will skim past Earth at about a quar­ter of the dis­tance as that to the Sun. When last ob­served, its flashes of re­flected light in­di­cated that it was ro­tat­ing about once every three hours, although some data sug­gested once every five hours. The flashes were few and far be­tween, how­ever, since the as­ter­oid’s sur­face is thickly coated with mol­e­cules that re­flect only five or six per cent of the light that hits it. “This means that it is very dark, only slightly more re­flec­tive than char­coal,” said as­tro­physi­cist Pablo San­tos-Sanz from the In­sti­tute of Astro­physics of An­dalu­sia. Apt, per­haps, given its fore­bod­ing shape. europe., un­ex­plained­mys­ter­, 21 Dec 2017.

ABOVE: The mummy of Anna Catha­rina Bischoff (1719-1787), seven-times great grand­mother of Boris John­son (be­low). BOT­TOM: A re­con­struc­tion show­ing Anna Catha­rina as she might have looked in life.

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