When I retired as a humanist celebrant I thought I'd stop writing this blog, but my fascination with all things death-related prompted more posts. They're just written from a slightly different perspective, that's all. Oh, and I still do the odd one, by special request.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Body snatchers, and how they were thwarted

Mortsafe in Towie churchyard, Aberdeenshire
Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, trainee doctors and surgeons relied on body-snatchers to supply them with corpses for dissection. This was at a time when many people believed that you wouldn't be allowed into heaven if your body wasn't intact, so the thought of their loved ones' remains being desecrated horrified them. This photo is from an interesting article about the lengths that some people went to, to prevent the bodies of their newly dead loved ones from being stolen. When a body had rotted, it was of little interest to the anatomists, so was left in peace.

My body may be of use to the trainee doctors at Cambridge University, so I've bequeathed it to them. You can do the same - see the link on the right.


JohnAllman.UK said...

"many people believed that you wouldn't be allowed into heaven if your body wasn't intact"

[citation needed]

Who believed that, in 1832?


Margaret Nelson said...

As well as a revulsion for the desecration of the grave, people were fearful of not reaching the afterlife in their entirety, and it was commonplace for amputees to have their limb buried in the graveyard until death reunited them.

"There was a repugnance for dissection, and this was a block to anatomical research," says Adams. "But people also believed that you wouldn’t go to heaven ‘whole’ - it was the idea of the entire self appearing whole before the maker."