History of Medicine Section, May 2016
04/05/2016 in Setanta House, (First Floor), Setanta Place, Dublin 2
The Square Piano: Mrs Ray’s “Ingenious Contrivance”
Professor Alun Evans, Queens University, Belfast will deliver the talk of the Square Piano.
In the 1820s, Wilson Ray and his wife Frances transformed grave-robbing from a minor sport, enjoyed by Dublin’s medical students and petty crooks, into a thriving export trade. This was driven by an increasing demand for cadavers and the introduction of steamships on Irish Sea routes. In March 1829, Frances was discovered with cadavers concealed in a square piano case, a ‘contrivance’ which she must have employed before. The Rays’ activities were condoned, at least, by some of the leading doctors of the day. In May that year Wilson Ray was tried and found guilty – but guilty of what, precisely?