Posts Tagged ‘dissection’

In New York, 1788 a riot broke out aimed at the physicians and medical students by the poorer New Yorkers. The riot was about the illegal procurement of corpses from the graves of the poor and slaves.

In April 1788 a student named John Hicks could hear children playing outside the building. The physician, Richard Bayley, was known to exhume corpses from the two cemeteries nearby. John Hicks was dissecting an arm and waved the arm out of a window, at the children, he told a boy that it was the arm of his recently deceased mother.

The boy ran home and told his father what had happened, the coffin was exhumed and found to be empty. A group amassed around the hospital, the mob broke in and found several bodies in different mutilated conditions. They dragged out Richard Bayley’s assistant, Wright Post, and other students into the street. The mayor of New York, James Duane, was forced into intervene and ordered them to be escorted to the jail house for their own protection.

2,000 people rioted and news spread fast, the few physicians remaining in New York were forced into hiding. A large group of the rioters set off down Broadway to find John Hicks, they assembled at the courthouse to throw rocks and caused a disturbance. In the end the militia and cavalry had to repel them.

At least three rioters and military men died, an estimate of the total dead was given as 20 people. Some students were brought to trial but the taunting Hicks was not one of them. With the riots came a statute law that only condemned criminals could be used and how corpses were to be treated. With the demand for new bodies the physicians then turned to hiring resurrection men, a practice which continued for some time.

An Interrupted Dissection.jpg
By William Allen Rogers – http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//filer/c8/ef/c8efdc9b-ffc8-4c93-a435-1573d2799633/an_interrupted_dissection_harpers_1882_copy_.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpg, Public Domain, Link