Mary Toft (née Denyer; c. 1701–1763), also spelled Tofts, was an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.
Toft became pregnant in 1726, but later miscarried. Apparently fascinated by a rabbit she had seen while working, she claimed to have given birth to parts of animals. Local surgeon John Howard was called to investigate, and upon delivering several animal parts he notified other prominent physicians. The matter came to the attention of Nathaniel St. André, surgeon to the Royal Household of King George I of Great Britain. St. André investigated and concluded that Toft was telling the truth. The king also sent surgeon Cyriacus Ahlers to see Toft, but Ahlers remained sceptical. By now quite famous, Toft was brought to London and was studied at length. Under intense scrutiny, and producing no more rabbits, she eventually confessed to the hoax and was subsequently imprisoned as a fraud.
The public mockery which followed created panic within the medical profession. Several prominent surgeons' careers were ruined, and many satirical works were produced, each scathingly critical of the affair. The pictorial satirist and social critic William Hogarth was notably critical of the gullibility of the medical profession. Toft was eventually released without charge and returned to her home.
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