Frederick T. Zugibe, Ph.D., M.D. passed away on
Friday, September 6 at age 85. In 1969 he was appointed
the first chief medical examiner of Rockland County
replacing the old coroner system. He served as
Rockland's chief medical examiner for 34 years retiring
in 2003. During his tenure, the Rockland Medical
Examiner's Office gained an international reputation in
the field of forensic science and innovative techniques
and inventions still in use.
Dr. Zugibe was born on May 28, 1928 in Garnerville,
NY to Benjamin and Zarick Zugibe. He is survived by
Catherine (O'Leary), his wife of 62 years, and six of
his seven children: Thomas (Peggy), Cathryn Blaber
(Thomas), Theresa Mandracchia (Stephen) Mary Raleigh
(Peter), Matthew (Carol) and Kevin Zugibe. His son
Thomas is Rockland County’s District Attorney.
Dr. Zugibe was predeceased by his son Frederick T.
Zugibe, M.D. (Anna) in 2006. He is survived by 18
grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
He was a parishioner at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic
Church in Haverstraw, member of the Secular Franciscan
Order. In 2002, he was received as a knight in the
papally approved Order of Our Lady of the Conception of
Vila Vicosa in Portugal.
Dr. Zugibe graduated from Haverstraw High School and St.
Francis College. He earned a Masters Degree from
Columbia University and a Ph.D. in anatomy and
histochemistry from the University of Chicago. After
having seven children, he returned to school and
obtained his M.D. degree from West Virginia University
in 1968 and became Board Certified in Anatomic and
Dr. Zugibe was internationally lauded in the field of
cardiovascular research and discovered several diseases
that had never before been identified. He was a fellow
in the American College of Cardiology and Board
Certified in Family Practice. He also had an active
medical practice during his tenure as Medical Examiner,
specializing in cardiology.
Dr. Zugibe was an author known for his scientific
research on the Shroud of Turin and the mechanism and
cause of death of Jesus appearing in numerous
documentaries in connection with his research. He wrote
The Crucifixion of Jesus, a Forensic Inquiry and
Dissecting Death: Secrets of a Medical Examiner and
other books and papers. He also served as adjunct
Associate Professor of Pathology at Columbia University
College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Zugibe established the first disaster response
protocol for Rockland County, coordinating training
among all law enforcement, medical and emergency
response teams and conducting EMT classes. As medical
examiner, he established protocols to support the
donation of organs and corneas, while still maintaining
the integrity of Anna death investigations. In 1972, he
joined relief efforts in Nicaragua providing medical
care to earthquake victims.
Whether it was comforting a victim's family at the
scene of an investigation, responding to a medical
emergency, or giving his time and support to innumerable
individuals and groups who needed his help, Dr. Zugibe
worked tirelessly on behalf of those in need and in
service to the community. He was devoted to his family
and took immense pleasure and pride in their endeavors.
His vast knowledge and accomplishments were only
surpassed by his compassion for the suffering of others
and the love of and for his family.
EXPERIMENTAL STUDIES in CRUCIFIXION:
Frederick T. Zugibe, M. D., Ph.D.
In pursuing the truth in specialized areas of research, things are not always what they seem to be. This is especially true in Shroud and crucifixion research where the literature is badly contaminated by papers written by individuals who have expertise in one area but publish and lecture outside their areas of expertise and those well intentioned, ubiquitous dilettantes without any expertise at all who dominate the field and publish and speculate in some or in all areas of shroud research. The former reminds me of the derivation of the word ultracrepidarian; Alexander the Great’s artist, Appeles was criticized by a cobbler for the way he had drawn the latch of a sandal and Appeles immediately corrected it. Then the cobbler went on to criticize the subjects legs. Appeles snapped, “ Se supra crepidat judicaret” Let him not criticize above the sole. In this regard, many misconceptions have pervaded the literature, ad infinitum regarding the mechanism and cause of death by crucifixion, whether the palms could support the weight of the crucarius and where the hands were nailed during crucifixion. Despite our extensive suspension studies using sophisticated techniques that showed that there was no difficulty in breathing during suspension on the cross therefore precluding asphyxiation as the cause of death, there is still wide propagation, “polly parrot” style of Barbet’s a priori hypothesis that the crucarius had to rhythmically sag and straighten throughout the whole period of crucifixion in order to expel the air from the lungs ( 1, 2). Moreover, recent journal articles, lectures and television documentaries have repeatedly proclaimed Barbet’s hypothesis as fact that the palms of the hands could not support the weight of a crucarius during crucifixion and that the nails would tear right through the hands totally based on an invalidly interpreted experiment conducted by Barbet. When I read the voluminous literature based on Barbet’s sacrosanct speculations, I, sometimes wonder if I am not committing a sacrilege when I question them.
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