Longevity & Legacy Portraits 2014: The Auto-Icon.

Jeremy Bentham, 84

“The age we live in is a busy age in which knowledge is rapidly advancing towards perfection”

One day on an umbrella afternoon in London, I walked through Bloomsbury, up Gower Street to the University College London to pay a visit with Jeremy Bentham who died in 1832. You too can meet with him most weekdays. He has been sitting in wait ever since 1850 when he arrived at the end of South Cloisters just off to the right of the central courtyard entrance to UCL.

Jeremey seriously grasped the concept of fulfilling his promise of longevity by requesting in his will that he remain with us, as long as there is an England, in the form of his Auto-Icon. You might think this request rather strange even now, but after you read Andrew Keen’s Digital Vertigo, you will begin to see how contemporary Bentham is in this Facebook age as we rapidly advance towards perfection.

Jeremy Bentham was one of the most forward thinking philosophers who argued for social reform in the late 18th and early 19th century. Active in thought right up to his death, he left his legacy in a huge volume of work mostly found at the UCL and British Library in London.

Just to be sure that he keeps his influence and his watch over the progress of the 21st century, he lives on through the UCL’s Bentham Project; and he sits there studiously as if poised to debate issues still relevant to this day.

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