Body Worlds: An Inside-Out World of Wonder

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By Michelle Mukonyora

7 October 2016

Plastination is one of the coolest techniques used for specimen preservation. It was invented in 1977 by an anatomist named Gunther von Hagens. Acetone is first used to replace the body’s fluids and fatty tissues. A vacuum chamber is then used to replace the acetone with a polymer solution.  Plastination is amazing because it’s a means of viewing the body in ways that we ordinarily wouldn’t be able to. It also makes us think about our bodies in more complex ways.

The premier exhibition where one can view amazing works of plastinated bodies and body parts is Body Worlds, which I once had the pleasure of attending when it was in Johannesburg. No description does the exhibition justice. It features more than 100 human specimens, which range from foetuses to athletes in motion. So many people have donated their bodies for plastination that Body Worlds no longer accepts donations. The waiting list has approximately 16,000 people on it.