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Grave Robbing

"Grave Robbing" is a descriptor in the National Library of Medicine's controlled vocabulary thesaurus, MeSH (Medical Subject Headings). Descriptors are arranged in a hierarchical structure, which enables searching at various levels of specificity.

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The stealing of corpses after burial, especially for medical dissection. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in the absence of laws governing the acquisition of dissecting material for the study of anatomy, the needs of anatomy classes were met by surreptitious methods: body-snatching and grave robbing. The infamous practice of "burking", murder to procure bodies for dissection, was given the name of a rascal named W. Burke, hanged in Edinburgh in 1829. (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2d ed; from Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine, 4th ed, p447; from Castiglioni, A History of Medicine, 2d ed, p676)


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