Ned Kelly

Under the Microscope

Edited by Craig Cormick
January 2015
More details
  • Publisher
    CSIRO Publishing
  • Published
    22nd January 2015
  • ISBN 9781486301768
  • Language English
  • Pages 288 pp.
  • Size 5.5" x 9.625"
  • Images color photos, 170 illus

Ned Kelly was hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880, and his body buried in the graveyard there. Many stories emerged about his skull being separated and used as a paperweight or trophy, and it was finally put on display at the museum of the Old Melbourne Gaol — until it was stolen in 1978.

It wasn’t only Ned Kelly’s skull that went missing. After the closure of the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1929, the remains of deceased prisoners were exhumed and reinterred in mass graves at Pentridge Prison. The exact location of these graves was unknown until 2002, when the bones of prisoners were uncovered at the Pentridge site during redevelopment. This triggered a larger excavation that in 2009 uncovered many more coffins, and led to the return of the skull and a long scientific process to try to identify and reunite Ned Kelly’s remains.

But how do you go about analyzing and accurately identifying a skeleton and skull that are more than 130 years old? Ned Kelly: Under the Microscope details what was involved in the 20-month scientific process of identifying the remains of Ned Kelly, with chapters on anthropology, odontology, DNA studies, metallurgical analysis of the gang's armor, and archaeological digs at Pentridge Prison and Glenrowan. It also includes medical analysis of Ned's wounds and a chapter on handwriting analysis — that all lead to the final challenging conclusions.

Illustrated throughout with photographs taken during the forensic investigation as well as with historical images, the book is supplemented with breakout boxes of detailed but little-known facts about Ned Kelly and the gang to make this riveting story a widely appealing read.

Preface: Do we really need another Ned Kelly book?
List of contributors

1) The arrival of Ned’s skull
2) The identification of Ned Kelly: a historical perspective
3) Analysing the skull
4) Bringing up the bodies: the search for the lost Pentridge burial ground
5) Anthropology: identifying the skeleton by its injuries
6) Analysis of the skull using odontology and craniofacial superimposition
7) The forensic pathology
8) Forensic 3D facial reconstruction
9) Turning to the DNA
10) Looking after Ned in the mortuary
11) Judicial hanging: the injuries and effects
12) The prison governor
13) Who were the other prisoners executed and buried at the Melbourne Gaol?
14) Reading Ned’s head: colonial phrenology, popular science and entertainment
15) The science of the Kelly gang’s armour: distilling fact from fiction
16) The guns: firearms of the Kelly gang and police
17) Ned’s injuries and their treatment: then and now
18) Sifting through the past: the archaeological dig at Glenrowan
19) The police perspective
20) Ned Kelly’s inquisition
21) Edward Kelly: the last legal rites
22) Analysing the handwriting
23) Managing the news: a personal perspective
24) The end of a 70-year journey?
25) So who has Ned’s head?
26) Solving the mystery of the skull

Appendix 1: DNA processes
Appendix 2: Metal crystallography

Craig Cormick

With over 30 years’ experience,  Craig Cormick is one of Australia’s leading science communicators. He is the former President of the Australian Science Communicators, an award-winning author of more than 25 books, and is widely published in research journals, including those of Nature and Cell. He specializes in communicating complex science issues and has taught writing and public relations at universities in Australia and conducted communication workshops worldwide.