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Digging Up the Dead: Uncovering the Life and…

Digging Up the Dead: Uncovering the Life and Times of an Extraordinary…

by Druin Burch

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0701179856, Hardcover)

"When I was four or five years old my mother took me to see a dead man." This riveting memory from the author’s own life is the start of a historical narrative and an evocation of a world where surgeons and body-snatchers colluded and conspired. It tells the story of Astley Cooper (1768–1841), a reckless young man who became a fiery radical and a brilliantly successful surgeon. He was a student of the famous John Hunter, the teacher of John Keats when the poet was a medical student, and the first person to describe the function of the middle ear. Surgeon to three successive British kings, when Cooper died it was said that he had "earned more than any surgeon or lawyer that ever lived," and his funeral drew huge crowds. The village where he had spent his last years was hung with black and a statue of him was placed in St. Paul’s. But Cooper’s real passion was dissection: he began with student raids on graveyards as well as on neighbors’ cats and dogs, and ended up running a country-wide network of informers and body snatchers. He would boast to a House of Commons inquiry that there was no man or woman in Britain whose body he could not obtain after their death. Druin Burch became fascinated by Cooper when he was working as a doctor, and he sets the past against his own reactions to autopsies and operations, hospitals and poetry. Beautifully written and brilliantly original with a touch of the gothic, this volume suggests that biography is a form of dissection, anatomizing, and autopsy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:31 -0400)

A historical narrative, where surgeons and body-snatchers colluded and conspired because this was the only way the surgeons could get anatomical experience. This book tells the story of Astley Cooper (1768-1841), a tearaway young man from Norfolk who became a fiery radical and a brilliantly successful surgeon.… (more)

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