When I was four or five years old my mother took me to see a dead man . This riveting memory from the author s own life is the start of Digging Up the Dead, a terrific historical narrative and an evocation of a whole world, where surgeons and body-snatchers colluded and conspired because this was the only way the surgeons could get anatomical experience. It tells the story of Astley Cooper 1768-1841, a tearaway young man from Norfolk who became a fiery radical (he took his pregnant wife to Paris during the Revolution) and a brilliantly successful surgeon. He was a student of the famous John Hunter, and the teacher of the poet John Keats, who was a medical student at Guy s; he became a fellow of the Royal Society and was the first person to describe the function of the middle ear, with its drum and bones. He became surgeon to three successive British Kings, as well as Princes and Prime Ministers. When Cooper died it was said that he had earned more than any surgeon or lawyer that ever lived , and his funeral drew huge crowds. The village where he had spent his last years was hung with black and a statue of him was placed in St Paul s. But Cooper s real passion was dissection. He b
Druin Burch, 34, studied Human Sciences at Oxford. After research in human and chimpanzee genetics, he studied medicine and has worked in hospitals across south east England. He teaches human evolution, physiology and ecology at Oxford, and writes for medical journals, the Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian. This is his first book. He lives in the Cotswolds.