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he book of the exhibition, Anatomy: A Matter of Death and Life, 2 July-30 October 2022 at the National Museum of Scotland.
History and science collide in the fascinating history of anatomy, from artistic explorations by Leonardo da Vinci, and the pioneering, lavishly illustrated book by Andreas Vesalius, to the crimes of William Burke and William Hare in 19th-century Edinburgh.
This history of how anatomy was studied focuses on Edinburgh and the West Port murders in 1828 and acknowledges the science’s reliance on dead bodies taken without consent.
Edinburgh was an important centre for medical teaching at this time but the sixteen murders exposed the darker side of the practice and study of medicine – the bodies were sold by Burke and Hare to the Edinburgh anatomist Dr Robert Knox.
Dr Tayce Phillipson is Senior Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland.