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The study of anatomy in England during the 18th and 19th century has become infamous for bodysnatching from graveyards to provide a sufficient supply of cadavers. However, recent discoveries have improved our understanding of how and why anatomy was studied during the enlightenment, and allow us to see the context in which dissection of the human body took place. Excavations of infirmary burial grounds and medical school cemeteries, study of hospital archives, and analysis of the content of surviving anatomical collections in medical museums enables us to re-evaluate the field from a fresh perspective. The pathway from a death in poverty, sale of the corpse to body dealer, dissection by anatomist or medical student, and either the disposal and burial of the remains or preservation of teaching specimens that survive today in medical museums is a complex and fascinating one.
Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK Wellcom
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of anatomy
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Time period from 1601 through 1700 of the common era.
Time period from 1901 through 2000 of the common era.
The stealing of corpses after burial, especially for medical dissection. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in the absence of laws governing the acquisition of dissecting material for the study of anatomy, the needs of anatomy classes were met by surreptitious methods: body-snatching and grave robbing. The infamous practice of "burking", murder to procure bodies for dissection, was given the name of a rascal named W. Burke, hanged in Edinburgh in 1829. (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2d ed; from Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine, 4th ed, p447; from Castiglioni, A History of Medicine, 2d ed, p676)
Countries known in remote history (as BYZANTIUM) or former names of countries reflecting political changes in the 20th century (as GERMANY, EAST).
The geographic area of New England in general and when the specific state or states are not indicated. States usually included in this region are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
dissection in england 1400sthe cadavers 1700sanatomy during the enlightenmentbody snatching in 18th century england1700 english anotomistold 1700s laws about human anatomyanatomy in the 18th centurydiscovery of anatomy i 17th and 18th centuryanatomical discoveries in englandwhy was anatomy illegal in the 1700s