17 May 2013

The Body Snatchers: Corpse and Effect

Body snatchers snatching corpse cadaver burke and hare
You probably know about the period of British history when medical students were in need of bodies to dissect which gave rise to the rash of macabre thefts known as body snatching.  Perhaps the most famous pair were the notorious were Burke and Hare who ironically did not raid cemeteries but murdered people to provide a local doctor with corpses to dismember.  Fortunately the Anatomy Act of 1832 stopped the ghastly business of stealing cadavers from their graces and allowed for the bodies of the recently deceased unclaimed poor to go under the knife of curious students of human composition.

Yet have you ever wondered where the bodies went after the dissections were over?  Fortunately we have Dr Piers Mitchell of Cambridge University (in the video above) to answer that for us. No need to watch this if you are squeamish but if you are interested in pursuing this then Dr Mitchell and colleagues have published Anatomical Dissection in Enlightenment England and Beyond: autopsy, pathology and display (2012) which is available on a number of websites including one which we won’t mention until they start paying more than 0.1% tax in the UK.