Dr. Dean

Plastination Photos: Anatomy Art, Part 1

Posting Date: 11/04/1999

We've all seen skeletons, models and charts that try to show us human anatomy. But they all have limitations - skeletons are incomplete, models are artificial, and charts are two-dimensional.

The Chess Player

A scientist in Germany has developed an entirely new way of looking at anatomy - one that allows the best exploration yet of how bones, muscles, organs and systems in our body really look, and how they work together.

Some examples of his work on display now in an exhibition in Basel, Switzerland. Called "Anatomy Art: Fascination Beneath The Surface" visitors can see more than 200 "plastinated" anatomy specimens of Professor Gunther von Hagens.

I heard about this exhibit a few months ago, and I'm very excited about being able to show some photos from the exhibit here on

Prof. Von Hagens has invented the process of plastination, by which real human bodies are impregnated with special polymers. The process allows for both the preservation of entire human bodies, and individual tissues, organs and organ systems.

Not only does the process allow for almost preservation for an almost indefinite amount of time, it does so in a lifelike way, retaining the real texture of the tissues.

In the "Anatomy Art" exhibition, visitors can see aspects of human anatomy as never before - they can see how muscles, skeletons and internal organs are positioned relative to each other, as well as the intricate detail of their shape, color and texture.

For example, The Chess Player (above) shows the complexities of the central nervous system. The brain is exposed, as are the cranial nerves on the left side of the head.

The process can produce specimens so dry and odorless, that some in the exhibit are available for visitors to touch, allowing them to experience the wonders of the human body in a way that had previously been only available to physicians.