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Week of March 18, 2013

Old school: U-M in History

Such Horrible Business

Michigan medical students with anatomical “material” in the era of the “resurrectionists.” — Courtesy Bentley Historical Library

As the U-M medical department began to grow following the Civil War, the demand for bodies to use in anatomy and surgery courses increased with each incoming class. As with medical schools across the country, the issue of supply and demand led faculty to hire young assistants whose job was to obtain bodies. They got as many bodies as they could legitimately; when the supply dried up, they stole them. Sometimes they did the work alone; more often they engaged in criminal conspiracies with men willing to rob graves for money.

Through spring, The Record’s “Old School” feature will highlight the stories and images that are being presented on the new U-M Heritage Project website. That site,, celebrates the university’s history and triumphs, in preparation for the U-M bicentennial in 2017.


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