A Dissection Room Drama: English Medical Education

  • Elizabeth T. Hurren


Two men dressed in black on a bleak winter’s night in November 1834 carried the corpse of an ‘unknown’ man into St. Bartholomew’s hospital’s dissection room.1 An anatomist was standing by to receive the cadaver. He made a new entry in his anatomy register. The corpse was numbered 181. This reflected how many cadavers had been bought since the Anatomy Act in 1832. The number was then written on several labels. Identifying tags were tied around the head, torso, and limbs. All cadavers were monitored in this way. It meant that few students could take away body parts to sell on, a problem in years when human material was in short supply. Once the corpse had been dissected and dismembered ‘down to its extremities’ the numbered parts were sewn or tied together by the demonstrator in anatomy and his assistant. At St. Bartholomew’s hospital over 6,000 pauper bodies were processed like this. These rare accounts reveal a hidden English anatomy trade that underpinned medical education in Victorian times.


Medical Student Medical Education Human Anatomy Dead Body Trainee Doctor 
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Copyright information

© Elizabeth T. Hurren 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth T. Hurren
    • 1
  1. 1.Oxford Brookes UniversityUK

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