In Edinburgh, Scotland, in the first half of the 19th century, great progress was being made in the field of anatomy. Only problem was, medical researchers needed cadavers for their studies, and since the law was very strict about which corpses could legally be dissected, there was something of a shortage of materials for doctors and surgeons to use. Thus, the practice of grave robbing began to increase, as people looking for ready cash would dig up fresh bodies and sell them on to medical schools. William Burke and William Hare, though, decided grave robbing was a mug’s game, and figured they’d be able to make much more money if, instead of procuring victims who were already dead, they would simply make their own dead bodies, and cut out the middle man, as it were. Ultimately, Burke and Hare are believed to be responsible for the murders of sixteen people, and their notoriety was so profound that they eventually became the subject of numerous books, plays, and movies, and their practice even led to the coining of a new English word, “burking,” referring to the crime of murdering a person for the purpose of selling the corpse. Join Tom and Jenny as we dig into the cadaverous past on this grave and gruesome episode 305.
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