Get in the Halloween spirit: Dittrick Museum’s conversation series to continue with talk on dissection, body snatching

Bodies Wanted event flyerDo you know the origins of using dissection to train medical physicians? An upcoming Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum “Stimulating Discussions across Time and Space” Conversation series, will address the early history of dissection and the problems it presented.

In 1543, Andreas Vesalius published Fabric of the Human Body, one of the first modern anatomies, and simultaneously ushered in a new era of dissection as requisite practice for physicians. By the 18th and 19th centuries, the popularity of gross anatomy led to a shortage of “supplies.”

“Resurrection men” robbed graves and sold the bodies to anatomists and students. The infamous William Burke and William Hare murdered 16 people to increase their trade in cadavers.

By the early 20th century, dissection could be considered a rite of passage, and one that was peculiarly well documented in photographs.

This talk will give a short history of dissection’s genesis, ending with questions as to how, when and if it is practiced today. The discussion will address many questions, including:

  • Are we “running out of bodies,” as a recent headline suggested?
  • Or will we no longer need them, replacing cadavers with synthetic models?
  • Have we heard the death knell of gross anatomy, or is the practice merely changing?

Richard Drake, author of Gray’s Anatomy for Students and professor of surgery at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, will be the discussion partner at this event.

The conversation will be held Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Museum of History. Admission will cost $7.

Space is limited, so make sure to register online or email