Monday, February 8, 2010

Were the fathers of modern midwifery mass murderers?

New historical research has just been published by Don Shelton that suggests that two obstetricians who lived in the 18th century and were responsible for much of our knowledge about anatomy and childbirth, were in fact serial killers. "Founders of British obstetrics 'were callous murderers'" reports that William Hunter and William Smellie paid for pregnant women to be murdered so they could dissect and experiment on them.

Knowing a little of the history of those times this doesn't come as any surprise to me. It also makes me wonder how much of the knowledge we take so much for granted today has come by similar murderous means?

Taking into account the context that these men worked in and the fact that their research has saved many women since, does this news change your view of them and make them any less remarkable?


starpath said...

"William Hogarth's print The Reward of Cruelty depicts William Smellie MD in the process of being dissected by William Hunter MD and John Hunter MD. This being Hogarth's view of the appropriate punishment for Smellie's burking of pregnant women."

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for this...fascinating...something I have thought about before, much to my shame!

Sarah Stewart said...

Whoops, I meant to say... something I have NOT thought about before!