Thomas Sewall

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Dr. Thomas Sewall (April 16, 1786 – April 10, 1845) was an American doctor, writer and academic. He gained notoriety for being convicted of body snatching, and later went on to become a professor.

Sewall was born in Hallowell, Maine. In August 1812, he graduated from Harvard Medical School and began practicing medicine. In 1819, he was arrested, charged, and found guilty of multiple counts of body snatching in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Forced to leave the state, he moved to Washington to re-establish his career. In 1825 he became a founding faculty member of the medical department at Columbian College (which later became George Washington University), where he became professor of anatomy.

Sewell is remembered today for his eight graphic drawings of "alcohol diseased stomachs." Colored lithographs of these were made and widely distributed to promote teetotalism and the temperance movement. He was also an opponent of phrenology, the pseudo-science of studying the size and shape of peoples' heads.


  • Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture, and Control. Wetport, CT: Praeger, 1995.
  • A most daring and sacrilegious robbery" The extraordinary story of body snatching at Chebacco Parish in Ipswich, Massachusetts by Christopher Benedetto. New England Ancestors magazine, 2005 (Spring), 6 (2), p. 31.