Benjamin Alcock

Benjamin Alcock (1801 – ) was an Irish anatomist.

Alcock was the first Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Queen’s College, Cork. However he was forced to resign following a dispute over the 1832 Anatomy Act by conveying his disapproval regarding the procurement of corpses for the school.

Eponymously remembered for his description of the pudendal canal – Alcock’s canal


Biography
  • Born in May 1801 at Kilkenny
  • 1819 – Scholarship to study anatomy under James Macartney (1770-1843) at Trinity College in Dublin. Unpaid apprenticeship under the skilled anatomist and surgeon, Abraham Colles (1773-1843)
  • 1821 – BA, Trinity College in Dublin
  • 1825 – Demonstrator of Anatomy at Park Street School in Dublin; Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
  • 1827 – M.B, University of Dublin; Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
  • 1836 – Lecturer in anatomy at the Peter Street School, Dublin
  • 1837-1849 Professor of Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology at the Apothecaries’ Hall on Cecilia Street, Dublin
  • 1844 – M.D, and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
  • 1849-1854 First Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Queen’s College, Cork
Lancet 1849 appointment of dr Benjamin Alcock
Medical News. The Lancet, 1848; 54(1362): 384
  • 1854 – Forced to resign as Professor of Anatomy at Queen’s College following a dispute over the procurement of corpses for dissection.

The Murder Act of 1752 allowed only the corpses of executed murderers to be used for the medical schools’ dissections. However with the opening of more medical schools and the reduction in executions – there became a shortage of fresh cadavers.

This led to a lucrative trade in corpses as grave robbing became big business. But even this was not enough to serve the demand of the medical schools. A group of body snatchers (the London Burkers) came to prominence in 1831 following the murder of a 14 year old boy they were unable to sell to the medical schools.

The resurrection men, John Bishop (aged 33) and Thomas Williams (26) were convicted of murder with the intent to sell the corpses to London medical schools. In his confession, Bishop admitted to stealing (and selling) between 500-1,000 bodies over a period of twelve years

The Anatomy Act of 1832 established an Inspectorate to oversee the manner in which the schools procured corpses and to allow an authorized person to donate a corpse that they lawfully possessed. This further reduced the flow of corpses to medical schools, increasing the risk of illegal activities.

  • Alcock strongly disapproved of requests to participate in the illegal procurement of corpses. Professor O’Connor and Sir John Long, (who held the greatest authority under the Anatomy Act in Ireland…) suggested to Alcock that he might “obtain subjects from the poorhouse by claiming bodies in the capacity of a friend of the deceased”
  • 1855 – Alcock formally dismissed
  • 1859 – Departed for America, never to be heard of again…

Medical Eponyms
Alcock’s canal (1836)

The description he gave of the sheath enclosing the pudendal nerve and internal pudendal vessels is his most famous contribution to the literature


Major Publications
  • Alcock B. Femoral artery. In: The Cyclopaedia of anatomy and physiology, Todd RB. (ed.) 1836–1839; Vol II: 235-257
  • Alcock B. Fifth pair of nerves. In: The Cyclopaedia of anatomy and physiology, Todd RB. (ed.) 1836–1839; Vol II: 268-316
  • Alcock B. Fourth pair of nerves. In: The Cyclopaedia of anatomy and physiology, Todd RB. (ed.) 1836–1839; Vol II: 370-371
  • Alcock B. Iliac arteries. In: The Cyclopaedia of anatomy and physiology, Todd RB. (ed.) 1836–1839; Vol II: 827-850 [Alcock canal p835]

Controversies

The common ascription of the pudendal canal has been incorrectly to Thomas Alcock, M.D. (1784-1833)


References

Biography

Eponymous terms


eponymictionary CTA

eponym

the person behind the name

Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and informatics. Asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | vocortex |

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