How Harriet Cole Donated Her Body To Science
Tue, April 20, 2021

How Harriet Cole Donated Her Body To Science

 

Dr. Rufus B. Weaver, a professor at Philadelphia’s Homeopathic Hahnemann Medical College (part of Drexel University today), was exposed to the then-novel field of anatomy when his father, Samuel, died. Samuel’s job was to help identify the Confederate dead during the Battle of Gettysburg so that they could be exhumed and repatriated to the South. Thus, Rufus took on the job. In 1879, he took up a position as Demonstrator and Lecturer of Anatomy, which involved dissecting cadavers with his students. 

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

Dr. Weaver’s remarkable achievements continue to be referenced in medical journals. But, the majority of these achievements are credited to Harriet Cole, who donated her body to science. Little is known about Cole’s short life but reports show that she worked as a cleaner at Philadelphia’s Homeopathic Hahnemann Medical College, where Dr. Weaver was teaching. Her duties included cleaning the college’s labs and classrooms, including the one that belonged to the professor. 

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, how much Dr. Weaver interacted with Cole remains unknown until now. In 1888, Cole died at age 35 due to tuberculosis. She then donated her body to the anatomist so that he could use it in the name of science, which was a big deal during that time because anatomy was a relatively new field of study. 

 

Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

During that same year, the professor worked on Cole’s body: the removal and subsequent mounting of an entire nervous system -- which took around five to six months. At first, her nervous system was only to be used as a tool for the classroom to instruct students. But, Dr. Weaver ended up submitting “Harriet” to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where he was awarded the Premium Scientific Award. One fellow doctor stated that it was “a marvel of patience and skill in dissection, the likes of which has never been seen before.” 

 

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