Episode 32: This Strange Civil Disturbance Changed How Americans Study Medicine

In the US, doctors are held in high esteem. But that wasn’t always the case. There was time when the medical field was riddled with controversy and public scrutiny. Tensions between the world of medicine and society reached a boiling point in New York City during April of 1788, when resurrection, the common practice of grave robbing, came under scrutiny.

Have you ever heard of the New York Doctors Riot?



I want to give a special thanks to Andrea Janes, owner and founder of Boroughs of the Dead LLC, a boutique tour company dedicated to dark and unusual walking tours of New York City, and Bess Lovejoy, journalist and author of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses.


The Gory New York City Riot that Shaped American Medicine; Lovejoy, Bess; Smithsonian Magazine; June 17, 2014.

Doctors’ riot, New York, 1788; Bell, Whitefield J.; American Association for the History of Medicine; December 1971.

Grave Robbing And The Doctors Riot of 1788; Hernandez, Miguel; The New York History Blog; December 20, 2016.

The Doctors’ Riot of 1788; Ancestry.com; Retrieved February 2019.

American resurrection and the 1788 New York doctors’ riot’; de Costa, Caroline and Miller, Francesca; Perspectives, The Art of Medicine; January 22, 2011.

Prelude and Aftermath of the Doctors’ Riot of 1788: A Religious Interpretation of White and Black Reaction to Grave Robbing; Swan, Robert J.; New York History, Fenimore Art Museum; Vol. 81, No. 4 (October 2000), pp. 417-456.

American Heritage Book Selection: The Body Snatchers; Gallagher, Thomas; American Heritage Magazine; June 1967.