However, the limits of surgery were expanding dramatically through the nineteenth century, and a mere decade later an ambitious American surgeon called Thomas Dent Mütter devised a method to help those with scarring such as Brogan’s. Change ). After their crimes were found out, William Hare turned King’s evidence, and walked free in return for his confession. A death mask of Burke and a life mask of Hare. Brogan would have been easily identifiable: a childhood accident had caused severe burns on his lower face and neck. The final victim, Margaret Docherty, was killed in Brogan’s establishment on October 31st 1828. The crime was discovered when two of Brogan’s other lodgers discovered the  body. She was taken to a police building in nearby Fountainbridgefor her own protection, but after the mob laid siege to it, she escaped through a back window to the main police station off Edinburgh's High Street. The obvious method of transplanting a piece of skin either from the same person or from someone else had been shown to fail. Encouraged by the ease with which they had made this money, the pair struck again in early 1828 when another tenant named Joseph became ill. Too impatient to see if Joseph would actually die from his afflictions, Burke and Hare took it upon themselves to help him along – plying him with whisky and then suffocating him by covering his mouth and nose while he was forcibly restrained. ( Log Out /  John Brogan may not have been able to benefit from Mütter’s innovation, but many people have since. This was infinitely more comfortable for the patient than a previous ‘Italian method’ of rhinoplasty- plastic surgery on the nose- that involved taking a flap of skin from the patient’s arm. This method is now known as the Mütter flap, and still forms the basis of some skin graft surgery today. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. Brogan’s skull was given to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, where it was displayed in the newly opened museum. Brogan was arrested, along with Burke, Hare and their wives; Brogan was soon released. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. The family did not do this however; instead, the skull was sold to a dentist whose collection was donated to the College in 1869. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. William Burke was hanged in front of a large crowd in January 1829, and his body was publicly dissected. Exhibit A: Dr Gordon Findlater holds the death mask … ( Log Out /  The graft would start off looking healthy, but would effectively end up rotting in its new position. The following day she went to buy whisky and was confronted by a mob who were angry at the not proven verdict. Burns such as these were more common at a time when cooking was generally done over an open flame, and people were usually dressed in layer upon layer of restrictive clothing. The story of Burke and Hare is well known. In this latest blog, our Human Remains Conservator discusses the skull and death mask of Burke and Hare's accomplice, John Brogan, and how pioneering surgery carried out by Thomas Mütter could have helped with a childhood injury. The contraction caused by scar tissue formation pulled his lower lip down, and this in turn acted on his teeth- like a reverse brace. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your account. Together with accomplice William Hare, Burke carried out at least 15 murders in the 1820s and sold the bodies for use in anatomy lessons. The story of Burke and Hare is well known. In 1828 the pair murdered at least 16 people… In 1834, five years after William Burke was hanged for crimes in which he had played a part, Brogan died of cholera. ( Log Out /  The death mask of William Burke and the life mask of William Hare were found in a store room at the museum last year along with a hangman's noose. In 1828 the pair murdered at least 16 people in Edinburgh, and sold the corpses to an anatomist called Robert Knox, who was Conservator of Surgeons’ Hall collections. Create a free website or blog at ( Log Out /  Mütter took these ideas and applied them to these burn victims: he would cut a flap of healthy skin from near the site, say the back or shoulder, and would leave it attached by a thin strip of skin before inserting it into an area cleared of the scar tissue. Unfortunately very little is known about either head, or for that matter the hangman's noose, and how they came to be here." She tried to see Burke, but permission was refused; she left Edinburgh the next day, and there are no clear accounts of her later life… Pathology Spotlight: Acute pulmonary oedema caused by poison Gas in WWI. Today Brogan’s skull is on display in the Museum alongside a cast of his face taken after death, which shows the distortion the scarring caused to his face and neck. An orthodontic brace acts to put pressure onto the teeth to cause re-modelling of the bone supporting the tooth to move it into the desired position. This became their favoured method of execution … While in Paris, Mütter had seen French surgeons reconstruct a nose by twisting a piece of flesh down from the patients forehead- the trick was to leave a pedicle of flesh connected to the original site. The tension caused by the tightening of the skin by burn scars caused bone re-modelling to hold the teeth in an undesired position- in this case the lower central teeth ended up projected out at an almost 90 degree angle to their normal position. At the time of Brogan’s death, nothing could be done for people who were deformed by injuries such as this. At the time of their arrest,  Burke and wife Helen McDougal were living in the boarding house of John Brogan, a friend who had sometimes helped the pair convey the bodies to Knox’s anatomy school. He used the bodies for dissection and teaching at his private anatomy school. To be successful the grafted skin would have to remain connected to the arm for a considerable period until it began to heal and establish its own blood supply- but that meant the arm would have to be attached to the face during that period.

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