Technology with attitude

Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds 2 is Now on Display at The Franklin Institute

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Body Worlds 2 Is Now On Display at the Franklin Institute
Body Worlds 2 Is Now On Display at the Franklin Institute

Take an eye-opening journey through the inner workings of the human body in this follow-up to 2005’s extremely popular BODY WORLDS exhibition! Experience the human body in all its elegance and complexity in the exhibition of entire bodies in dramatic poses.

BODY WORLDS 2 & The Brain presents a broad collection of authentic human specimens, and, for the first time in Philadelphia, a special presentation on the brain. Featuring some of the latest findings in neuroscience on brain development, function and disease, this exhibit will inspire a greater understanding of and respect for the mysterious world of the brain.

All specimens in BODY WORLDS exhibitions are preserved by the revolutionary process of Plastination, invented by anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens. BODY WORLDS is the only public anatomical exhibition associated with an established body-donation program.

A Look At Body Worlds 2

In 1975, while serving as a resident and lecturer-the start of an eighteen year career at University of Jena’s university’s Institute of Pathology and Anatomy- Gunther von Hagens invented Plastination, his groundbreaking technology for preserving anatomical specimens with the use of reactive polymers. “I was looking at a collection of specimens embedded in plastic. It was the most advanced preservation technique then, where the specimens rested deep inside a transparent plastic block. I wondered why the plastic was poured and then cured around the specimens rather than pushed into the cells, which would stabilize the specimens from within and literally allow you to grasp it.”

He patented the method and over the next six years, von Hagens spent all his energies refining his invention. In Plastination, the first step is to halt decomposition. “The deceased body is embalmed with a formalin injection to the arteries, while smaller specimens are immersed in formalin. After dissection, all bodily fluids and soluble fat in the specimens are then extracted and replaced through vacuum-forced impregnation with reactive resins and elastomers such as silicon rubber and epoxy,” he says. After posing of the specimens for optimal teaching value, they are cured with light, heat, or certain gases. The resulting specimens or plastinates assume rigidity and permanence. “I am still developing my invention further, even today, as it is not yet perfect,” he says.

During this time, von Hagens started his own company, BIODUR Products, to distribute the special polymers, equipment, and technology used for Plastination to medical institutions around the globe. Currently, more than 400 institutions in 40 countries worldwide use Gunther von Hagens’ invention to preserve anatomical specimens for medical instruction. In 1983, Catholic Church figures asked Dr. von Hagens to plastinate the heel bone of St. Hildegard of Bingen, (1090-1179), a beatified mystic, theologian, and writer revered in Germany. His later offer to perform Plastination on Pope John Paul II foundered before serious discussions.

In 1992, von Hagens married Dr. Angelina Whalley, a physician who serves as his Business Manager as well as the designer of the BODY WORLDS exhibitions. A year later, Dr. von Hagens founded the Heidelberg-based Institute for Plastination, which offers plastinated specimens for educational use and for BODY WORLDS, which premiered in Japan in 1995. To date, the exhibitions have been viewed by more than 28 million people, in cities countries across Europe, Asia, and North America. His continued efforts to present the exhibitions, even in the face of opposition and often blistering attacks are, he says, the burden he must bear as a public anatomist and teacher. “The anatomist alone is assigned a specific role-he is forced in his daily work to reject the taboos and convictions that people have about death and the dead. I myself am not controversial, but my exhibitions are, because I am asking viewers to transcend their fundamental beliefs and convictions about our joint and inescapable fate.” Apparently determined to exhaust the limits of living in freedom, Dr. von Hagens has made a concerted effort to travel and propagate his interests around the globe.

Gunther von Hagens’ BODY WORLDS exhibitions are currently showing in North America. “The human body is the last remaining nature in a man made environment,” he says. “I hope for the exhibitions to be places of enlightenment and contemplation, even of philosophical and religious self recognition, and open to interpretation regardless of the background and philosophy of life of the viewer.”

One of the many Models Featured during Body Works 2
One of the many Models Featured during Body Works 2

Body Worlds 2 opened at The Franklin Institute on October 17th, and will only be on exhibit for 18 weeks. While visiting the exhibit, look for the “Ask the Expert” station. Volunteer medical personnel will be on call to answer your questions during most weekday and weekend hours.

Also look for the “plastination” cart outside the exhibition with hands-on demonstrations of the process of plastination and polymer science.

Be sure to make time for good healthy fun during Wellness Weekends! Every weekend during the exhibit run will be feature special programming. There are other special events being planned to go along with the exhibit so you can find out about it by check the Institute’s event listing. To Learn more about Body Worlds you can chec out it’s Website.