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 ?
That led to the grisly business of body snatching -- retrieving bodies from newly dug graves.
Between 1810 and 1831, body snatching was a serious problem in Aberdeen.
The 'Burbs HANKS' talent for slapstick is in full effect in this entertaining '89 comedy about a group of suburbanite busybodies who suspect their creepy new neighbours are body snatching cannibals.
BODY SNATCHING Rioting over theft of OAP's corpse IN the 1800s, doctors were only allowed to use the bodies of executed criminals as cadavers for their students' lectures and demonstrations, so grave robbing was rife.
For the state to simply assume it has the right to my organs without specific permission is surely little better than old fashioned body snatching.
Contrary to expectations, an animalist insistence on uninterrupted bodily continuity between this life and the next does not involve deceptive body snatching.
And so, a gruesome black market of body snatching had emerged.
For a time in the United States and United Kingdom in the nineteenth century, body snatching seems to have been a fairly popular sport.
He told us of the ins and outs of body snatching and dissection.
This can avoid such allegations as body snatching," he said, adding that the department should be placed under the Prime Minister's Department.
The grisly story received perhaps more media attention than any such scandal since a wave of body snatching in the 18th century.