Anatomy Act of 1832

The Dastardly Past:  the Anatomy Act of 1832.

mortsafe 9

A mortsafe, installed by loved ones for the protection of graves

On July 19, 1832, the House of Lords passed the Anatomy Act in Great Britain.  Enlightenment thinking in the eighteenth century had resulted in an increase in the number of students enrolling in medical schools and, at the same time, higher expectations among the public for quality medical care.  This included surgery, which required close familiarity with human anatomy.  As a result, the demand for bodies in this era far outstripped what executioners and body-snatchers (called resurrectionists) could supply.  The provisions of the Anatomy Act outlined a procedure where licensed practitioners could claim bodies from among the dead of the workhouses.  Parliament hoped to fulfill scientific demand while also putting an end to the distressing practice of robbing graves.  The Act, however, only enjoyed partial success.

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