Tag Archives: Benjamin Boddington

Speaking without tongues

Henry Baker became interested in the case of Margaret Cutting who could speak clearly despite having no tongue, and he reported on the case in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Apparently, she had a cancer of the tongue as a young child, which caused her tongue to fall out when she was about four years old. Despite this loss, she was able to talk fluently, and sing with a good voice.

Baker first heard about her from a Benjamin Boddington, Turkey Merchant of Ipswich (about whom I know nothing else). Intrigued, Baker had Boddington, accompanied by the Rev. William Notcutt, and William Hammond, apothecary of Ipswich, go to Wickham Market (about twelve miles from Ipswich) to investigate. He sent them with a list of sounds and words with which to test her. She passed all the tests and submitted to a detailed inspection of her mouth that showed indeed she had no tongue. She could also eat and drink just as normal.

In her affidavit, Margaret Cutting said she did not know exactly how old she was, but estimated around twenty-four in 1742. This would make her very close in age to Joshua Kirby, who also grew up in Wickham Market.

After the report to the Royal Society and publication in the Philosophical Transactions, the case was reported in the London newspapers, and an extract from one of the reports was reprinted in the Ipswich Journal of 15 Jan 1743.

Five years later, after lingering doubts of the truthfulness of the case were expressed by some Fellows, they had her come up to London to the Royal Society where she was subjected to a closer analysis by Dr. Milward and Dr. James Parsons MD, FRS, who related the particulars and gave a physiological explanation of why she could still talk in the Philosophical Transactions.


Baker, H., 1742. ‘An Account of Margaret Cutting, a Young Woman, Now Living at Wickham Market in Suffolk, Who Speaks Readily and Intelligibly, Though She Has Lost Her Tongue’, Phil. Trans. 42, 143—152.

Parsons, J., 1747. ‘A Physiological Account of the Case of Margaret Cutting, Who Speaks Distinctly, Tho’ She Has Lost the Apex and Body of Her Tongue: Addressed to the Royal Society, by James Parsons M. D. F. R. S.Phil. Trans.
44, 621—626.