The afterlife of Laurence Sterne (1713-1768): Body snatching, dissection and the role of Cambridge anatomist Charles Collignon

19 Sep 2017

This paper aims to highlight the practice of body snatching from graves in the 1700s for the purpose of providing corpses for anatomical dissection, and for stocking anatomy museums. To do this, we examine the exhumation and dissection of the famous eighteenth-century novelist Laurence Sterne and explore the involvement of Charles Collignon, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Cambridge. We also show that osteological and cut-mark analysis of a skull purported to be that of Sterne, currently housed in the Duckworth Collection at Cambridge, provides the key to solving the mystery surrounding why Sterne was resurrected.