Friday, January 15, 2010

The Burke and Hare Case

The story of the West Port murders is fairly well known.  Between 1827 and 1828, William Burke and William Hare went on a killing spree in order to sell bodies for dissection.  The purchase was Doctor Robert Knox.

January 15, 1829 finds Sir Walter Scott grappling with how to deal with Doctor Knox's work.  From Scott's Journal:

...I went to the Council of the Royal Society, which was convened at my request, to consider whether we ought to hear a paper on anatomical subjects read by Mr. Knox, whose name has of late been deeply implicated in a criminal prosecution against certain wretches, who had murdered many persons and sold their bodies to professors of the anatomical science. Some thought that our declining to receive the paper would be a declaration unfavourable to Dr. Knox. I think hearing it before Mr. Knox has made any defence (as he is stated to have in view) would be an intimation of our preference of the cause of science to those of morality and common humanity. Mr. Knox's friends undertook to deal with him about suffering the paper to be omitted for the present, while adhuc coram judice lis est.

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