Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Body Worlds (German title: Körperwelten) is a travelling exhibition of preserved human bodies and body parts, prepared with a technique called plastination to reveal inner organs or structures. Its developer and promoter is German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, who invented the plastination technique. The exhibition, first presented in Tokyo in 1995, has been shown in many cities in Europe and Asia; the catalogue for the North American tour of the exibition, which began in Los Angeles in 2004, claims that more than 15 million people have seen Body Worlds (and a second traveling show, Body Worlds II) between 1995 and early 2004.
One of the self-declared goals of the exhibition is the education of laymen about the human body, leading to better health awareness. Several full body specimen show the nervous system, the system of blood vessels, the muscles, and the inner organs. One exhibit compares the lungs of a smoker and a non-smoker. Prosthetics such as artificial hip joints or heart valves are shown embedded in real bodies. Human fetuses in various stages of development are also shown. All exhibits are accompanied with detailed descriptions.
The shows have been surrounded by controversy for a number of reasons. Von Hagens prepared some "artistic" exhibits, such as a man carrying his own skin (based on a 16th century drawing by Gaspar Becerra ); a man on horseback holding his brain in one hand, the horse's brain in the other; or a man kneeling in prayer, holding his heart in his hands. These are seen by some as denigrating the deceased. Some religious groups object to any public exhibition of human corpses. Others accuse von Hagens of sensationalism. Supporters counter that all displayed people did sign over their bodies to von Hagens.
There have been allegations that von Hagens used the bodies of executed Chinese prisoners. These have been backed up by documents from the corpse-processing facility in Dalian, in northeastern China. Further controversy surrounds von Hagen's use of the professor title he obtained from the University of Dalian . In January 2004, the Düsseldorf Ministry of Science officially forbade him from using the title in future publications.
Von Hagens maintains strict copyright control over pictures of his exhibits. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures, and press photographers have to sign agreements permitting only one publication in a strictly defined context, followed by return of the copyright to von Hagens. Because of this, a German press organization has suggested that the press refrain from reporting about the exhibition altogether.
In 2003, officials of Munich tried to prohibit the exhibition there, arguing that it violate human dignity and laws regulating burials. Von Hagens appealed and managed to obtain a temporary injunction allowing the exhibition but requiring that the artistic exhibits mentioned above be covered.
The exhibition in Hamburg in 2003 took place in the rooms of an erotic art museum on the Reeperbahn. Initial objections of a local official to the artistic exhibits were overruled by officials of the Hamburg Senate.
Includes past, present, and future exhibitions
- Japan, various cities, beginning in Tokyo (September 14, 1995 - October 19, 1997)
- Mannheim (October 30, 1997 - March 1, 1998)
- Vienna (April 30, 1999 - August 31, 1999)
- Basle (September 4, 1999 - January 5, 2000)
- Cologne (February 12 - July 31, 2000)
- Oberhausen (August 5, 2000 - January 28, 2001)
- Berlin (February 10 - September 2, 2001)
- Brussels (September 22, 2001 - March 3, 2002)
- London (March 21, 2002 - February 9, 2003)
- Seoul (April 17, 2002 - March 2, 2003)
- Stuttgart (March 11 - 19, 2003)
- Munich (February 22 - August 17, 2003)
- Busan (March 11 - September 21, 2003)
- Hamburg (August 30, 2003 - January 4, 2004)
- Singapore (November 9, 2003 - March 21, 2004)
- Frankfurt (January 16 - June 13, 2004)
- Taipei (April 21 - October 24, 2004) - National Taiwan Science Education Center 
- Los Angeles, California (July 2, 2004 - January 23, 2005) - California Science Center 
- Los Angeles, California (January 29 - March 27, 2005) - California Science Center (Body Worlds 2) 
- Chicago, Illinois (February 4 - September 5, 2005) - Museum of Science and Industry
The Chess Player
This exhibit shows a man sitting and playing chess, with his brain exposed
The Basketball Player
The donator of the body for this exhibit had the greatest muscle mass by far, compared to other donators. These muscles are left intact, and the body dribbles a basketball in its right hand. The top of the skull is also separated from the head to reveal the brain underneath.
One of the few women featured in the exhibition, the swimmer's body is split in half laterally. The two halves are displayed swimming away from each other.
A runner is caught mid-stride with his muscles fanned out to show their complexity.
This exhibit features a man riding a horse. Both the man and horse are plastinated, with the man's front and back separated from the rest of his body.
The muscles of Winged Man are splayed outwards, giving a rough wing-like appearance. Winged Man also wears a Panama hat, and is standing on a continuously rotating platform.
One of the more controversial exhibits is an 8-months pregnant woman, laying on her side with her arm propping her upper body up. The bottom of her torso is cut away to reveal a curled fetus inside. A nearby sign states that this woman decided to donate her body and the fetus when she was informed that she had a terminal disease.
(Blood vessel family)
This exhibit includes a man, a woman, and a child on top of the man's shoulders. These bodies were prepared by injecting a red dye and plastinating agent into their blood vessels, then using chemicals and ultrasound to dissolve away their flesh and bones. As a result, only the circulatory system is left behind.
- Official website (English and German)
- Body Worlds Exhibition - art, science or freak show?, review by the Institute of Biomedical Science
- Franz Josef Wertz, Brigitte Tag (eds.): "Schöne Neue Körperwelten, Der Streit um die Ausstellung", Klett-Cotta Verlag, Stuttgart 2001. Sixteen authors discuss the various ethical and aesthetical aspects of Body Worlds, in German.
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