About this tour
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the medical school at the University of Edinburgh was a hotbed of discovery, attracting the efforts of men like Robert Knox, Joseph Lister and James Young Simpson were instrumental in enhancing our understanding of human anatomy, the development of anaesthetics and countless other innovations.
However, there was a darker side to these advancements. Many of the medical techniques at this time remained crude and even barbaric. Worse than that vital medical research depended on the supply of fresh cadavers, and since the university was only granted four bodies a year for this purpose the professors had to improvise… Unscrupulous individuals and even gangs were paid to illegally remove freshly buried corpses from their graves. Some, most infamously William Burke and William Hare, murdered local residents and sold their (very fresh) bodies to the medical school.
Find out more about this fascinating period on our Surgeons and Bodysnatchers tour. Marvel at the palatial college buildings which still stand today, explore Greyfriars Kirkyards to see surviving evidence of the grave robbers’ activities and visit some of the very drinking establishments where Burke and Hare picked up their victims.