William Duell, Executed for Murder, Who Came to Life Again While Preparing for Dissection in Surgeons' Hall

Detail of William Duell; came to life while being prepared for dissection
William Duell; came to life while being prepared for dissection

Background

In this source, the story of Newgate prisoner William Duell is illustrated. Duell was hanged for rape and murder. He lost consciousness on the gallows and was taken for dead. A few hours later he revived whilst being prepared for dissection by medical students. The authorities took pity on him and commuted (reduced) his sentence to one of transportation (exile) to North America.

This was a time of great developments in the understanding of medicine, in part due to the practice of training medical students through the dissection of dead bodies. There were strong religious and cultural prejudices against dissection, which made dead bodies difficult to find for this purpose. As a result, executed criminals were regularly provided to medical training colleges.

Taken from: The Newgate Calender
Author / Creator: Comiled by Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin
Publisher: J Robin and Co.
Date: 1824 - 1828
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 1379.h.12