Body Snatching

The Robbing of Graves for the Education of Physicians in Early Nineteenth Century America


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About the Book

Also called “resurrectionists,” body snatchers, were careful not to take anything from the grave but the body—stealing only the corpse was not considered a felony since the courts had already said that a dead body had no owner. (“Burking”—i.e., murder—was the alternative method of supplying “stiffs” to medical schools; it is covered here as well).
This book recounts the practice of grave robbing for the medical education of American medical students and physicians during the late 1700s and 1800s in the US, why body snatching came about and how disinterment was done, and presents information on: efforts to prevent the practice, a group of professional grave robbers, and the European experience.

About the Author(s)

Suzanne M. Shultz, has published works on the history of medicine and Three Mile Island. She is the director of Library Services of Philip A. Hoover, M.D. Library at WellSpan Health at York Hospital. She lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Suzanne M. Shultz
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 144
Bibliographic Info: photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2005 [1992]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2232-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3217-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface     vii
Introduction     ix

The Horrors of Dissection     1
Post Mortems and Anatomies in the Colonies     9
Dissection for Education     14
Resurrection of the Dead     26
American Professionals     59
Murder!     69
The Coming of the Anatomy Acts     78
The Decline of the Body Snatchers     90
Popular Literature     95
Appendix A: “History of the Anatomy Act of Pennsylvania,” by William Smith Forbes, M.D., 1867     111
Appendix B: Reports of Societies from the Cincinnati Lancet and Clinic, The Academy of Medicine on the Anatomy Act     117

Annotated Bibliography     119
Index     131

Book Reviews & Awards

“exciting, fascinating…unique”—; “explains why the practice existed, how disinterment of corpses was accomplished and who committed these acts”—Reference & Research Book News.