Founders of British obstetrics 'were callous murderers'
But were they also serial killers? New research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (JRSM) claims that they were. A detailed historical study accuses the doctors of soliciting the killing of dozens of women, many in the latter stages of pregnancy, to dissect their corpses.
"Smellie and Hunter were responsible for a series of 18th-century 'burking' murders of pregnant women, with a death total greater than the combined murders committed by Burke and Hare and Jack the Ripper," writes Don Shelton, a historian. "Burking" involved murdering people to order, usually for medical research.
According to Shelton, the two men were between them responsible for the murders of 35-40 pregnant women and their unborn children. Acting separately, and using henchmen to deliver their supply, they organised a killing spree in London between 1749 and 1755 and, after a period of inactivity enforced by mounting suspicion about the source of their corpses, resumed between 1764 and 1774. Motivated by ego, personal rivalry and a shared desire to benefit from being acclaimed as the foremost childbirth doctors of their time, Hunter and Smellie sacrificed life after life in their quests to study pregnancy's physical effects and to develop new techniques, the author says. "Although it sounds absolutely incredible, the circumstantial literary evidence suggests they were most likely competing with each other in experimenting with secret caesarean sections on unconscious, or freshly murdered, victims, with a view to extracting and reviving the babies," Shelton told the Observer....
comments powered by Disqus
Don Shelton - 3/29/2010
Thank you for your interest in my JRSM paper. That paper only presents the prima facie case for murders to order.
For anyone seeking more evidence, there are many pages of supporting contemporary evidence in my biography of Sir Anthony Carlisle, "The Real Mr Frankenstein", which is available at http://therealmrfrankenstein.blogspot.com/
Carlisle was a fascinating man who deserves to be better known, but has been overlooked by historians until now.
- Hull of Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley Found 150 Years Later
- U.S. Textbook Skews History, Prime Minister of Japan Says
- Recalling a Film From the Liberation of the Camps
- Skull Fossil Offers New Clues on Human Journey From Africa
- Are crude conspiracies right? Research shows nations really do go to war over oil
- Ronald Suny says historians have shied away from exploring the roots of the Armenian genocide for fear of taking attention away from the victims
- Columbia University professors Eric Foner, Alan Brinkley, and Alice Kessler-Harris to retire
- A powerhouse appropriations subcommittee is now headed by a historian: Republican Rep. Tom Cole (OK)
- Slavic scholars divided over a scholarship sponsored (and withdrawn) by Stephen F. Cohen
- Claire Strom to Step Down as Editor of Agricultural History