Human Remains: Dissection and Its Histories

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Yale University Press, Mar 8, 2011 - Medical - 220 pages
Until 1832, when an Act of Parliament began to regulate the use of bodies for anatomy in Britain, public dissection was regularly--and legally--carried out on the bodies of murderers, and a shortage of cadavers gave rise to the infamous murders committed by Burke and Hare to supply dissection subjects to Dr. Robert Knox, the anatomist.
This book tells the scandalous story of how medical men obtained the corpses upon which they worked before the use of human remains was regulated. Helen MacDonald looks particularly at the activities of British surgeons in nineteenth-century Van Diemen's Land, a penal colony in which a ready supply of bodies was available. Not only convicted murderers, but also Aborigines and the unfortunate poor who died in hospitals were routinely turned over to the surgeons.
This sensitive but searing account shows how abuses happen even within the conventions adopted by civilized societies. It reveals how, from Burke and Hare to today's televised dissections by German anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens, some people's bodies become other people's entertainment.

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About the author (2011)

Helen Macdonald is an English writer, naturalist and academic at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of H is for Hawk, which won the Samuel Johnson prize. This book is a depiction of the grief and depression she fell into after the sudden death of her father in 2007 and how she bounced back through falconry. H is for Hawk, which has just won the 20,000 prize, describes the year Macdonald spent training a goshawk. She writes about subsuming her grief in the relationship with the bird and trying to be like her: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life. Her book is the first memoir to win the prize. She will be at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival in 2015.

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