Gunther von Hagens – German anatomist
Anatomy has always been considered a science for the elect: not everyone can understand how God created man and why he gave or suddenly took his life. Mere mortals called anatomists gods on earth, and after visiting the labs where the corpses were lying they called them devils. Scientists were burned at the stake, and many who avoided such a sad fate poisoned themselves with corpse poison. And even in our time there is a chronic poisoning of pathologists.
Anatomy is a difficult science and its subject smells bad. In Ancient Egypt, in order to delay the process of decomposition, the priests used preservatives: they took out the brain and internal organs of the deceased pharaoh, processed corpse with a mixture of salts and wrapped it with oils to remove as much water as possible from the body. In the XVI-XVII centuries, scientists began to use carbolic acid, ethyl alcohol, formalin and other substances. At the beginning of the 20th century, the water in the body of the deceased was replaced with paraffin. And only in the late 1970s the world was shocked by the discovery of the German Gunther von Hagens.
Professor von Hagens began his scientific career in 1965 in the GDR. In 1969, he was arrested for distributing leaflets against the entry of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia. In 1970, Hagen was able to travel to the FRG, where he continued his studies at the University of Lübeck. Since 1975 he worked at the University of Heidelberg. Having discovered a new method of embalming, he created the Heidelberg Institute for Plastination. The scientist managed to replace the water in the body with transparent polymers. The body becomes hard and it can be given any pose. Such mummies are an indispensable teaching aid. They are odorless, non-toxic, preserve the natural form and color of the organs at room temperature, they can be touched. The new method was called plastination.
Unbridled fantasy pushed professor to create sculptures from these corpses. Unlike the ancient anatomists, von Hagens shows them around the world. Exhibits are dead people presented without skin. Muscles, internal organs, nervous and circulatory systems – all seemed to be frozen in time.
He wanted to make his first exhibition in his native Berlin. But there, as well as in museums all over Germany, people shied away from him, as if from a plague. Inhabitants of Tokyo were the most curious. The success of the exhibition of anatomical masterpieces was stunning: it was visited by 550 thousand Japanese. After this, the exposition was seen by millions people around Europe.
Strange project, of course, causes a lot of protests and outrage. Exhibits are bodies of volunteers as well as corpses of prisoners.