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 ?
Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius examines the reasoning behind the bizarre practice of stealing skulls that persisted through much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
O'Donnell and his pal Alan McNulty were charged in 2004 with grave robbing at a cemetery in Ballyduff, Co Kerry, for which they were bailed until March that year.
Against the backdrop of high society Manhattan and Gilded Age decadence, Fanebust tells an improbable but true story about the grave robbing of a wealthy tycoon, Alexander T.
THE MISSING CORPSE: GRAVE ROBBING A GUILDED AGE TYCOON details the circumstances of the grave robbing, the many theories which abounded at the time, likely events, and its social impact.
They were doing various bits from history and one of the episodes was called Grave Robbing so they rang me up and asked me to make the shovels to dig the graves with.
But Mr Burrell's way seems to be the tabloid equivalent of grave robbing.
ritual killings, ritual abuse, grave robbing, animal sacrifice an destruction of property" have occurred in every state, "all in the name of religion, Satanism" (p.
There was a shortage of cadavers for scientific research, so they started grave robbing to supply doctors at medical colleges,'' he said.
In an orgy of grave robbing during the colonial years, several Khoisan graves were dug up for their contents.
Dortmunder, a robber by profession, against his better judgment reluctantly agrees to take part in a scam that involves grave robbing, DNA, and Native American gambling casinos along with a host of wacky characters.
A similar, if less literal, bit of grave robbing occurred soon after punk rocker Joey Ramone (nee Jeffrey Hyman) died from lymphatic cancer on April 15, at the age of 49.
He shows on the one hand how workers might turn to the "cruelty man" and on the other he demonstrates that they had good reasons -- vaccinations being offered by Poor Law establishments long associated with grave robbing and medical despotism -- with resisting health inspectors' injunctions regarding smallpox.