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Preserving the dead for medical study

Since 1995 Gunther von Hagens Body Worlds, has traveled the world. The Body Worlds is an anatomical exhibition of real human bodies. These bodies were preserved and posed using a special plastination technique developed by Gunther. The plastinated bodies were developed to aid with medical study.

The bodies may be molded or posed into any form for optimal study and understanding of the muscular system. Muscles may also be removed to give emphasis to just the nervous system if desired. Even cross sections of people may be developed for study and analysis. While the initial concept of converting humans to anatomical exhibits may be a bit appalling it has proven to be a great educational aid.

Before the Body Worlds exhibit gained notoriety and world fame there were the preserved bodies of Honore Fragonard. Honore was cousin to famous painter Jean Honore Fragonard. Honore however developed and implemented a technique of preservation in the 18th century. The bodies were preserved using injections of wax in the veins. As well as coating the the remnant body.

These anatomical preservations were known as ecorches. They were different from those of painters and artists in that they used the remnant corpses. Somewhere between 1766-1771 Fragonard created the Horseman of the Apocalypse. A copy of Durer’s famous painting. The Horseman is the largest of Fragonard’s exhibits.

Amongst Fragonard’s other preserved bodies are The Man with a Mandible, Goat Chest, Wax-injected human head, Human fetuses and several others. Other techniques Fragonard experimented with were the Injection-corrosion technique. This method was accomplished by injecting the vessels with an inert material. Then the tissues would be corroded with an acid leaving only the cast of the injected inert material.

Many people view both of these methods of preservation as inhuman and a travesty of nature. This is partially true. Consider the time that Fragonard created his displays. They would be considered much more awful in his time. Whatever your views are of these methods it still does not change that they serve as a great educational aid to learn about the functions of the body. Consider this, while X number of bodies may be subjected to preservation, many more will be spared dissection. If for no other reason than the body worlds are preserved indefinitely.

For more information
* Body Worlds
* The Ecorchés by Fragonard

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