Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"The True and Horrid Story of Burke and Hare," Illustrated Lecture by Lisa Rosner, Observatory, Thursday March 18th


This Thursday we have a really exciting lecture at Observatory: Professor and scholar Lisa Rosner will be on hand to tell us the "true and spectacular history" of Williams Burke and Hare, perpetrators, in the name of medicine, of "the most atrocious murder spree of the century, outflanking even Jack the Ripper's," as detailed in her book The Anatomy Murders.

As she explains in an interview on the Dead Guys in Suits blog:
Between November 1827 and November 1828, in Edinburgh, Scotland, William Burke and William Hare killed 16 people – 3 men, 12 women, and 1 child – in order to sell their cadavers to an anatomy lecturer, Dr. Robert Knox. These were the first serial killings to gain media attention, 60 years before Jack the Ripper. The link between murder-for-profit and medical progress has fascinated people ever since. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a short story based on it, called The Body Snatcher, which was turned into a terrific horror flick in 1945, starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi..
Hear the entire story, get a tutorial on the eponymous practice of "burking," and purchase signed copies of her book the day after tomorrow at Observatory! Full details follow; very much hope to see you there!
The True and Horrid Story of Burke and Hare
An illustrated lecture and book signing by Lisa Rosner,
Professor of History at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Date: Thursday, March 18th
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5

Up the close and down the stair,
But and Ben with Burke and Hare.
Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief,
Knox the man who buys the beef.
—anonymous street song

On March 18, 2010, Lisa Rosner will be discussing the myths and realities of the Burke and Hare case, resurrected in her recent book The Anatomy Murders: Being the True and Spectacular History of Edinburgh's Notorious Burke and Hare and of the Man of Science Who Abetted Them in the Commission of Their Most Heinous Crimes.

On Halloween night 1828, in the West Port district, a woman sometimes known as Madgy Docherty was last seen in the company of William Burke and William Hare. Days later, police discovered her remains in the surgery of the prominent anatomist Dr. Robert Knox. Docherty was the final victim of the most atrocious murder spree of the century, outflanking even Jack the Ripper's. Together with their accomplices, Burke and Hare were accused of killing sixteen people over the course of twelve months in order to sell their corpses as "subjects" for dissection. The ensuing criminal investigation raised troubling questions about the common practices by which medical men obtained cadavers, the lives of the poor in Edinburgh's back alleys, and the ability of the police to protect the public from cold-blooded murder.

Lisa Rosner is Professor of History at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. She received her AB from Princeton University and her PhD from Johns Hopkins University. She has been awarded fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and the New Jersey Historical Commission. The Anatomy Murders is the third book in her historical trilogy on Edinburgh medicine. "The Worlds of Burke and Hare," the companion website to The Anatomy Murders, is available at Burke and Hare. You can find out more about her book by clicking here. You can find out more about her work by clicking here.
You can get directions to Observatory--which is next door to the Morbid Anatomy Library--by clicking here. You can find out more about Observatory here, join our mailing list by clicking here, and join us on Facebook by clicking here. You can read Lisa Rosner's entire interview on the Dead Guys in Suits blog by clicking here. To find out more about her book The Anatomy Murders, click here.

Image used by permission of the Library of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

2 comments:

Romeo Vitelli said...

I wrote a post about this a while back. Especially about Robert Knox whose medical career was largely ended by the notoriety.

http://drvitelli.typepad.com/providentia/2009/09/the-resurrection-men.html

Castle in the Air said...

I can't wait for the movie!! I hear it is being filmed as we speak. Very exciting.
Sending my best from Berkeley,
Karima