Volume 22, Issue 3 (July 1977)
Human Body Buoyancy: A Study of 98 Men
Can any conclusions regarding cause of death be drawn from whether a body floats or sinks in water? In 1699 a famous British murder trial was precipitated by the discovery of a young woman's body floating on the surface of a millpond very soon after death. The townspeople could not reconcile this circumstance with anything but foul play, and four lawyers were charged with her murder. Among the evidence presented was the testimony of a sailor who recounted that at the naval battle of Beachy Head the men who were shot and fell overboard floated, while those who were drowned immediately sank .