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 ?
It was the fusing process, body-snatching tendencies notwithstanding, that attracted De Tomaso's interest.
He discovers an underworld of prostitution, drug smuggling, body-snatching and murder for profit.
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Body-snatching was not as common as it was assumed, but the panic it induced in the early 1830s was tangible and everpresent.
His plea deal means the mastermind of a body-snatching ring that plundered 1,400 corpses for tissue and bones will serve between 18 and 54 years behind bars.
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With tongue wedged firmly in cheek, Slither resurrects the schlock horror monster movie with unabashed glee, pitting a close-knit community of hillbillies against an invasion of body-snatching molluscs.
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.
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.
Cool spoof of cheapo drive-in scare fare manages to honor irs body-snatching '50s roots while striking into sharply original territory.