Robert Knox is now remembered chiefly as the Edinburgh doctor who dissected corpses supplied by Burke and Hare. His contemporaries knew him as the most celebrated anatomist in Britain, the author of a controversial book on race, and a radical natural philosopher with revolutionary ideas, who taught a generation of medical students that species and races were produced by the operation of biological laws, independent of design or providence. Though he did not achieve the theoretical breakthrough he hoped for, his writings offered a challenging alternative to Darwinism that anticipated later theories of rapid evolution. This academic biography is the first to examine the influence of Knox's radical upbringing, Parisian training and ethnological studies in the Cape Colony on the development of his higher' anatomy, which traced the multifarious forms of the animal kingdom to an ideal body plan supposedly common to all. New evidence is presented that the subsequent decline in his career, often attributed to the murder for dissection scandal, was a consequence of his opposition to the 1832 Anatomy Act and his refusal to comply with state regulation of anatomy schools.
His uncompromising position is shown to have inspired the portrayal of anatomy in fiction -- where Knox appears more often than any other British doctor -- as a savage and ungovernable science. The book will appeal to all those interested in the far-reaching influence of Knox's anatomy on nineteenth-century medicine, evolutionary theory, aesthetics, physical anthropology, and the representation of anatomical science in popular culture.
A W Bates read anatomy, embryology and the history of medicine, gaining a Ph.D. from Queen Mary College and an MD from UCL, where he is honorary senior lecturer in pathology. He has taught topographical and pathological anatomy in London for more than 20 years.