A surgical demonstration presented within the original architecture of the old operating theatre of St. Thomas’s Hospital of 1822.
The Night of the Body Snatchers
With no anaesthesia to dull the pain and no antiseptics to stop infection, operations in the past were a terrible ordeal and many surgeries ended in the patient's death. However sometimes, a resilient and lucky patient with a daring surgeon could survive even the most experimental of operations!
In May 1777 the Reverend Dr William Dodd was sentenced to hang. As honorary chaplain to George III, Dodd had become the most fashionable clergyman of the age before his fall from graceover a silly attempt at forgery. A huge public campaign to save his neck, backed by the writer Samuel Johnson, was in vain and Dodd was taken to the gallows at Tyburn on 27 June. Yet even as he felt the noose around his neck, Dodd had not lost hope of being saved. For if Samuel Johnson’s words had failed him, Dodd fully believed that the talents of his friend John Hunter, the infamous surgeon and anatomist, would bring him back from the dead.
Between 1914-1918, millions of people were suddenly forced to deal with a vast number of violent and unnatural deaths of young men. Britain became a nation of mourners. Bereavement and attempts to cope with mass death intensified as families and individuals sought all the help they could in dealing with personal loss. For many people, Spiritualism provided an outlet for their suffering and sorrow and offered an assurance that their dead loved ones lived on. This talk will explore how Spiritualism helped illuminate a world darkened by the catastrophe that we call today the Great War.
Dogs have been companions to humans for thousands of years. However, until the second half of the nineteenth century, with the development of the pet industry and beginnings of animal rights, it was perfectly acceptable to allow extreme suffering in animals for medical experiments. One of the earliest accounts of dissecting a sentient animal was in 500 BC when Alcmaeon of Croton severed the optic nerves of live dogs to understand how it affected their vision. From the 1600s, as our understanding of physiology began to accelerate, they have played a vital role in shaping our understanding of our bodies and in developing treatments for a wide range of diseases. For a nation of dog lovers, we owe a huge debt to these animals and the part they have played in many ground-breaking discoveries.
Today, the body snatchers who crept into the burial grounds of Georgian London to dig up the dead for the anatomy schools of London seem like characters from a dark gothic story. But the body snatchers were not characters from fiction and the lucrative trade in human corpses was real. Hear the real story of London's Resurrection Men, and the anatomy schools they supplied and discover how the development of surgery in the Enlightenment lead to the business of selling the dead.
In this tour, the museum's resident researcher, Kirsty Chilton, will invite the public to take a visual tour through some of the most grizzly and terrifying surgical instruments ever designed and how they were used in the Georgian and Victorian Era. The surgical knives, the amputation saws, the trephines, and forceps are just a sample of objects used in the past and they will be presented live through our object handling collection.