Intrigue of the week: Gunther Von Hagens

Mikey 6 comments
Intrigue of the week: Gunther Von Hagens

I first became aware of Von Hagens a little over a year ago when I caught his controversial 'Anatomy for beginners' television series. During the course of each episode (filmed in front of an audience of medical students and organ donors), Von Hagens dissects real human bodies, which had been previously donated for medical and educational purposes by the deceased or significant family member.

As the name suggests 'Anatomy for beginners' is just basic anatomy, but to see it demonstrated in the manner Von Hagens does adds an interesting new dimension. Wearing his trademark fedora during the procedures, he uses his personal knife to perform each autopsy instead of standard medical equipment which adds to his already creepy demeanour.

You can watch the first part of Episode one below, and continue reading after the break for a brief capture on Von Hagens very colourful history. ( on Youtube).

Early beginnings.

At only 5 days old, Von Hagens parents took him on a 6 month trek from his birthplace (Skalmierzyce) to escape an imminent soviet occupation. Born a haemophiliac, he was in and out of hospital, and at one time was admitted for a 6 month stay. It was during this time that he took an interest in medicine.

In 1965 he started his medical studies at the University of Jena. Three years later he was arrested after an attempt to escape to West Germany. He consequently spent the next 2 year in jail before West Germany bought his freedom in 1970.

In 1977 Von Hagens invented a medical technique called Plastination, which he patented the following year. Further improvements on the technique followed, and in 1993 he founded the Institute of Plastination in Heidelberg.

Plastination is the method used to preserve bodies or body parts, whereby the water and fat are replaced with a special plastic. His Body Worlds exhibitions are based on the Plastination process. If you have seen the recent James Bond "Casino Royal" movie, then you have already seen a snippet of the Body Worlds exhibition. During that particular scene, Von Hagens can be heard lecturing in the background.


In 2003 an animal rights organization filed a complaint alleging that von Hagens did not have proper papers for a gorilla he had plastinated. Von Hagens won in court.

In late 2003 Von Hagens was investigated after accusations he had illegally received and plastinated several hundred corpses from prisons, psychiatric institutions and hospitals in Kyrgyzstan without the families consent.

A German newspaper reported that Von Hagens had offered one of the worlds tallest men (at 2.39 metres) a large sum of money and life long pension if he agreed to donate his body for Plastination after he died. Von Hagens' offer was rejected.

Further reading.

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Wednesday 16th January 2008 | 10:56 PM

Creepy... . but I can't look away. I had heard of the body works but never knew this creepy guy was behind the whole thing. Thanks for giving me nightmare material for the next week haha.

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Thursday 17th January 2008 | 08:08 AM

Title should be freak of the week. Still interesting what he does.

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Thursday 17th January 2008 | 08:53 AM

I think that's fascinating, anatomy lessons can really give you a fresh perspective on yourself and humans in general

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Thursday 17th January 2008 | 09:41 AM

That is fabulous; really. This would have really come in handy back in Uni days.

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Friday 18th January 2008 | 08:18 PM

Love your work Von Hagens. You can use my body for science any day. After I'm dead I mean :-P

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Monday 11th January 2010 | 03:00 PM

Trevor.....One would hope so, otherwise it'd be kinda painful, lol

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