In 1897, Edward Dunham placed a vial of human bacterial spores into a time capsule for future scientists.
Working as a bacteriologist at Bellevue Hospital Medical College in Manhattan, he wrote in a note that "…future generations will let us know how long these spores last," according to a CBS News radio report. Last week, 114 years after Dunham left the note, authorities demolished the building that rested on top of the time capsule, causing the historical artifacts to resurface.
The vial of bacterial spores are thought to belong to Clostridium perfringen, a type of intestinal bacteria common to humans and non-human animals. Today, the bacteria are relatively well tolerated, but in Dunham's time, they were far more harmful.
The hospital also found papers from the time, medical student records as well as a New York Sun newspaper in the time capsule.
Dunham, who may have dabbled in chemistry, too, presented an intriguing question: How long can a patient's bacteria last?