Alcock began his teaching career in January 1825 at Park Street School in Dublin where he was a Demonstrator of Anatomy and later taught anatomy at the Peter Street School in 1836. In the following year a new school opened, the School of the Apothecaries' Hall on Cecilia Street, where Alcock became Professor of Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology. He worked at the Apothecaries' Hall for over a decade (O'Rahilly, 1947). In 1849, the Lancet (1849) recorded his new appointment as the first Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Queen's College, Cork in which it was stated that: “Dr. Benjamin Alcock has been appointed professor of anatomy in Queen's College, Cork, vice Dr. Carte, who has been obliged to retire, in consequence of ill-health.” The medical school at the College opened in November 1849 and started with 20 students. Unfortunately, Alcock was only at Cork for a few years and in 1854 was forced to resign his position (O'Rahilly, 1947).
The reason for Alcock's forced resignation was due to a dispute between him and the schools administration and the procurement of corpses following the passing of the Anatomy Act. As background to this unfortunate event, the Anatomy Act of 1832 legalized the supply of corpses to medical schools. Previously, the Murder Act of 1752 allowed only the corpses of executed murderers to be used for the medical schools' dissections (Smith and Sage, 1994). As more medical schools opened and executions became rare, there was a shortage of fresh cadavers, which lead to a surge in grave robbers who would supply corpses to medical schools for profit. It even became such a lucrative career that some people were murdered for the grave robbers to deliver enough bodies to medical schools. Evidence of this is the trial and hanging of two English men, John Bishop and Thomas Williams, who were convicted of murder with the intent to sell the corpses to London medical schools (MacDonald, 2009). To ameliorate the problem, the intention of the Anatomy Act was to establish an Inspectorate who would oversee the manner in which the schools procured corpses as well as to allow an authorized person to donate a corpse that they lawfully possessed. This especially applied to those in charge of hospitals and workhouses, where large numbers of poor people died (MacDonald, 2009).
The cause for Alcock's resignation stemmed from his disapproval of requests to participate in illegal activities in the procurement of corpses. Like many medical schools after the passing of the Anatomy Act, the anatomy department at Cork experienced a further depletion in its supply of corpses. The Inspector of Anatomy for Ireland, Professor O'Connor, along with Sir John Long, who was held the greatest authority under the Anatomy Act in Ireland, had suggested to Alcock that he “should obtain subjects from the poorhouse by claiming bodies in the capacity of a friend of the deceased” (O'Rahilly, 1948). When Alcock did not go along with the suggestion, the Earl of St. Germans asked for his resignation in December 1853, stating that his remaining in the College “was not beneficial, nor of good example” (O'Rahilly, 1947). Alcock resigned in 1854 but petitioned the Queen, who passed the matter back to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The Lord Lieutenant declined to pursue the matter further since the Earl of St. German had already made a ruling. So in July 1855 Alcock was dismissed. Following his dismissal, Alcock “considered that he was badly treated by the authorities, and published a pamphlet upon the subject of his grievances” (Cameron, 1916). This pamphlet resides in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Alcock also recounted his case in the Dublin Medical Press in 1855. In explaining the details of his case, he stated that seven reasons were given for his dismissal, but that five were first communicated to him only by the same letter which contained the demand for his resignation (Alcock, 1855). One of reasons given was that the proposed method of obtaining corpses had been carried out at other schools and should have been satisfactory. Alcock responded, “I did not concur in or adopt the arrangement for supplying subjects, proposed by Professor O'Connor, and urged for adoption in Cork, in the name of the Earl of St. Germans, by Sir John Young, the chief authority under the Anatomy Act in Ireland. That arrangement was illegal. It involved a misdemeanor; and its illegality were admitted even by its proposer” (Alcock, 1855). Even with this account of attempting to follow the law, despite the urges from his superiors, Richardson (2000) stated that he “had broken ranks with his profession, and with the English ruling elite in Ireland, and was never forgiven…He would probably never again have obtained an academic post in his subject in British dominions.” Several years later Cameron (1916) noted of Alcock “in 1859, being then unmarried, he went to America, and has not since been heard of.”