body snatching

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body snatching,

the stealing of corpses from graves and morgues. Before cadavers were legally available for dissection and study by medical students, traffic in stolen bodies was profitable. Those who engaged in the illicit practice were sometimes called resurrectionists; they were active from about the early 18th cent. to the middle 19th cent. Public opposition to any dissection of bodies was further aroused by discovery of the resurrectionists' activities; outbursts of violence occurred in Europe as well as in America. Robert Knox, an eminent British anatomist, became a victim of public attack because a body he had purchased for dissection proved to be that of one of a number of victims murdered by William Hare and an accomplice named William Burke for the purpose of selling the bodies; the murderers were brought to trial (1828) and convicted. This and other similar cases led to the passage (1832) in Great Britain of the Anatomy Act, which permitted the legal acquisition by medical schools of unclaimed bodies. In the United States dissection of the human body has been practiced since the middle of the 18th cent.; riots and acts of violence frequently occurred in protest against lecturers on anatomy and medical students, who reputedly dug up bodies for study. In 1788 outraged citizens of New York City precipitated a riot while ransacking the rooms of anatomy students and professors at Columbia College Medical School in search of bodies. The following year body snatching was prohibited by law, thus creating a climate for the growth of an illegal group of professional body snatchers. It was not until 1854 that anatomy students were allowed access to unclaimed bodies from public institutions.

Bibliography

See The Diary of a Resurrectionist (ed. by J. B. Bailey, 1896); T. Gallagher, The Doctors' Story (1967).

References in periodicals archive ?
The body-snatching ring ran for more than four years, ending in the autumn of 2005, and more than 1,400 corpses were illegally harvested.
No wonder the body-snatching animal rights terrorists think they have arrived at a Butlins holiday camp.
Reporter Sarah Childress reports that last week prosecutors charged four men with running a multimillion-dollar body-snatching business that looted bones and tissue from more than a thousand corpses.
FOUR members of an alleged body-snatching ring said to have cut the bones of BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke from his corpse and sold them for transplants are facing a string of criminal charges, it was reported yesterday.
There are plenty of cheesy scifi references to keep gamers amused but besides the obvious swapping of who's the hero here, peppered with instances of hypnotising, body-snatching and levitation, it's just your average shooter, with medium levels of amusement.
I WAS outraged to read that Professor Dick van Velzen, the doctor at the centre of the body-snatching scandal at Alder Hey Hospital, is getting a pounds 115,000 payoff.
THE boss of a body-snatching ring responsible for stealing the bones of veteran broadcaster and bone cancer victim Alistair Cooke is himself dying of bone cancer.
The body-snatching of the Dons by Milton Keynes and the Football League's cowardly rubber-stamping of the move gave a chilling sneak preview of the kind of franchise system so many of the game's rulers would welcome.
Then it's off to Warstone Lane for body-snatching, premature burial and air-tight coffins.
THE leader of a body-snatching ring responsible for stealing the bones of veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke, yesterday pleaded guilty after a deal with US prosecutors.
THE head of a body-snatching ring responsible for stealing the bones of veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke pleaded guilty yesterday after a deal with US prosecu tors.
The case against an American dentist at the centre of a body-snatching ring which led to South Wales patients receiving stolen tissue grafts has been adjourned.