On the Frontiers of Medicine

Jan. 11, 1907
Los Angeles

A woman living on a hog ranch near the Santa Fe railroad crossing over the Los Angeles River contacted police after seeing dismembered human bodies in the old dumping ground near George Street.

Investigators dug through the dump, retrieving the body of a child that was nearly intact, along with bits and pieces of a man and a woman, including their skulls. In addition to the remains, police found books and papers traced to the University of Southern California Medical School.

“Whoever is responsible for the depositing of the remains on the garbage heap should be severely censured,” Coroner Roy S. Lanterman told The Times.

“It seems quite heartless enough to give up the human body to further science but when the students have finished dissecting the remains they should see that they are interred with the proper respect. I cannot understand the action of those responsible for sending the bodies to the garbage heap.”

For further reading on the sorry state of medical schools at the turn of the 20th century, read Abraham Flexner’s “Medical Education in the U.S. and Canada.” Note that in this era, medical students didn’t even need to be high school graduates.



E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com

Whither Our Useful Friends, the Corpses?

April 23, 1907
Los Angeles
Traffic in the Dead was the topic before the Board of Supervisors today.  There is a “disgraceful scrabble for bodies,” stated Supervisor Alexander, chairman of the County Hospital Committee.  Supervisor Patterson remarked as well that “the officials of the institutions where these poor unfortunates die are simply hounded for the bodies.”  It seems that while forty-six cadavers of unclaimed indigents were, in March alone, distributed among the the likes of the Los Angeles College of Osteopathy, Pacific College of Osteopathy, USC and the College of Physicians, there was still a shortage, despite the contention of A. B. Shaw of Los Angeles College of Osteopathy that “the death rate at the County Hospital is much in excess of any proper need of all the medical schools of this county.”  In the interest of rational cadaver distribution (especially one carried out in more seemly a manner), permits shall now henceforth be issued to those qualified Angelenos who, in the interest of anatomical research, approach poor houses, public hospitals, county jails, State prisons and undertakers for pickings.