Ever see one of these on a grave? It’s called a mortsafe.

They were invented as after the Murder Act of 1752, surgeons could only dissect the bodies of convicted murderers who were hung for their crimes. This meant only 30-45 bodies a year were ever available.

In order to be able to keep working, however, Scottish anatomist, Robert Knox, would pay for anybody who was brought to him regardless of the cause of death so he could examine it.

The problem then was people would break into graveyards and steal dead bodies and bring them to Knox.

The mortsafe was then invented to stop the bodies from being stolen. Up stepped Irish pair William Burke and William Hare, who heard of the value of the bodies and over a 10 month period in Edinburgh, killed 16 people and sold Knox the bodies.[1]

When they were eventually caught, Hare was imprisoned and Burke was hanged. Burke was then ironically dissected and his skeleton is currently on display in the Anatomical Museum of the Edinburgh Medical School.


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