Burke and Hare murders

Burke and Hare murders

A series of homicides (17 in total) in Edinburgh, 1827–8, perpetrated by Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare, who sold the cadavers to Doctor Robert Knox, a private anatomist and lecturer of students from Edinburgh Medical College.

Context
In early 19th-century Scotland, bodies for studying anatomy were provided in two ways:
(1) Legal—from hanged murderers, whose cadavers were fresh, which was allowed by the Murder Act 1732; or
(2) Illegal—via grave-robbers (“Resurrectionists”), who provided bodies in varying states of decay.

The Anatomy Act 1832 expanded the group of decedents who could be legally dissected to include those who died in prison and workhouses, and allowed donation of bodies to anatomists in exchange for burial fees.
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