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Keywords:

  • history;
  • anatomy;
  • dissection;
  • infection;
  • death

Abstract

Today, the study of human anatomy utilizing the ultimate study guide, the cadaver, is relatively safe. In the past, however, human dissection was dangerous. Prior to the germ theory, antibiotics, and the use of gloves, cadavers were often life threatening to dissectors including both the teacher and the student. Medical students who graduated in the United States before 1880 were unlikely to practice antisepsis in the dissecting room. In the present article, we review human cadaveric dissection in Europe and the United States primarily from the 1700s to the early 1900s in regard to its potential for transmission of infection to the dissector. A brief account of the infectious hazards of human cadavers in general and those of cadavers used for dissection in particular is given. Clin. Anat. 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.