When you bury family members in a cemetery, you expect them to stay there. Not so 200 years ago, however, when body snatchers prowled the nation's burial grounds looking for subjects. An acute shortage of bodies eligible for dissection by student doctors in the late 17th century drove this cottage industry until the Anatomy Act of 1832, when dead bodies of all the unclaimed poor could legally undergo dissection. But what was the fate of these bodies after they were exhumed? A new book by Cambridge researcher Dr Piers Mitchell and colleagues from around the UK has brought together, for the first time, archaeological evidence of the fate of the corpses that helped improve understanding of how the human body worked.
The research described here has been published in 'Anatomical Dissection in Enlightenment England and Beyond: autopsy, pathology and display' (2012), edited by Piers Mitchell, Ashgate Publishing Company.