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.


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

References in periodicals archive ?
Hitchcock grave robbing seems to be the current Hollywood thing.
From the grave robbing rife in ancient Egypt to the recent looting in Syria, combatting art theft has been a perennial challenge.
Before the Anatomy Act of 1832 expanded the legal supply of bodies, cadavers for dissection in medical schools were in short supply and grave robbing by "resurrectionists" became the main source.
Hanna said the protesters demand an end to the illegal expansion of the cemetery and grave robbing.
EVIDENCE of grave robbing at a 19th century burial ground has been unearthed by archaeologists.
Karachi, November 11, 2011 (Frontier Star): The court has accepted the bail of the culprits, involved in grave robbing against the surety bonds of Rs 20,000 each.
Governor Sindh, Dr Ishrat-ul-E bad has tasked the authorities with an immediate report regarding rampant incidents of grave robbing in Karachi.
Although they don't always bear on his legal arguments, he also recounts the history of burial, cremation, dissection, autopsies, and grave robbing, as well as the process of decomposition.
A teen is about to embark on grave robbing when he learns his father robs graves for a living.
State prosecutor Andreas Mappourides submitted the admissible facts of the case that have not been contested by the three men suspected of carrying out last December's grave robbing of Papadopoulos' remains, as well as their voluntary statements.
Councillor Brian Arnold, who represents Ynysybwl, added: "It's basically grave robbing.
Bailey Jr, 43, faces grave robbing charges after cops found an ashes urn in his living-room.