The random—and not so random—musings of a quirky Regency romance writer.
No one with that many people in her head can possibly be normal...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

~Regency Wednesday~ Bodysnatchers

Astley Paston Cooper
During the late 1700s the medical field was expanding. The government gave the doctors all the bodies of the executed criminals in order to teach medical students anatomy and to advance their surgical skills. However, the demand far outweighed the supply.

To that end, resurrectionists, or bodysnatchers, were "hired" to steal bodies from the graveyards. It got so bad that iron coffins were advertised, as a way to prevent loved ones from ending up under a medical student's knife.

Astley Cooper, pictured here, was one of the most famous surgeons of the Regency period. He was reputed to have worked in his dissecting room every morning before breakfast and was known for his willingness to dissect anything. His favorite subject for dissection was human remains and he saw no harm in hiring someone to steal corpses for him.

*To add to this morbid subject, or maybe just enhance your knowledge of a small portion of medicine's history, check out Donald A Low's The Regency Underworld (1982/2005), pages 80-104; The Life of Sir Astley Cooper by Bransby Blake Cooper (1843); or the Wikipedia article Astley Cooper (plenty of references but no inline citations).


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I guess it's good they weren't executing too many criminals but how terrible to discover your loved one's grave disturbed.

Jaimey Grant said...

I know, Susan. The doctors looked at it so unemotionally, barely understanding why the people thought them the real villains. Mind boggling.

Thanx for stopping by!


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