Press Releases & Statements 2004


Nine-foot tall giant arrives at BODY WORLDS with five, new real human body plastinates—A nine-foot tall giant has just arrived at BODY WORLDS—The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies.

While scientists vaguely know what the Big Bang of the universe looked like, you can now view ‘the anatomical big bang of the human body’ at BODY WORLDS at the California Science Center. With all its muscles, bones and organs flying apart but caught still by 350 nylon strings this body, expanded to the size of a nine-foot giant, becomes virtually transparent.

Along with the giant, five more bodies arrived, presented in unique and surprising poses, never before seen in any exhibit. A Yoga lady stars in an acrobatic ‘bridge pose’ and a youngster is caught midair doing a handstand with his skateboard. Each pose reveals different anatomical highlights. The walking giant allows a detailed view of our organ system. A leaping dancer who balances on his brain while his organs are exposed from the back was the favorite of the new arrivals among body donors who attended the unveiling ceremony.

Dr. Gunther von Hagens, who unveiled the plastinates today in front of 25 American body donors and distinguished guests of the California Science Center said, “I added these new plastinates to show something fresh to those who are visiting BODY WORLDS several times. These plastinates show our marvelous anatomy in a surprising new way. This is what I call ‘event anatomy.’ I also brought these plastinates to thank the American public for their enthusiastic reception of the exhibition’s debut in the United States.”

To date, more than 300,000 guests have viewed the BODY WORLDS exhibit and the demand has been so great that the California Science Center is now scheduling to open the exhibit on Christmas and New Year’s day – two days they are usually closed. The exhibit will close on January 23, marking the only West Coast opportunity to see it before it travels on the rest of its United States tour.

For information regarding photographs and interview requests, please contact Georgina Gomez or in the Body Worlds Press Office by telephone on (213) 744-2679 or fax on (213) 744- 2026.

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Americans pledge ultimate gift to German scientist

The California Science Center hit the headlines again since Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the mind behind BODY WORLDS and inventor of plastination, launched the North American body donation program.

Inventor of Plastination invites body donors on a trip to Germany. Thirty U.S. pioneers have signed up to donate their dead bodies to the educational BODY WORLDS exhibition, currently on display at the California Science Center. Next month, they will embark on a complimentary behind-the-scenes visit to the Institute for Plastination in Germany, to where their bodies will return after their death. The Institute for Plastination in Germany already has more than 6000 living donors in their files. Over 300 bodies have been delivered to the “plastinator” since he launched his European body donation program in 1983.

Last month, Gunther von Hagens began his search for U.S. citizens willing to join his exhibition after their death. The chances were looking good: According to visitor surveys, 21% of people who experience BODY WORLDS at the California Science Center could consider becoming an anatomical specimen once they no longer need their bodies. An additional 40% say that they might prefer plastination to conventional post-mortal choices.

The response to the launch of the first U.S. body donation program for plastination was phenomenal: After seeing the exhibition, 600 visitors were so impressed that they signed up to receive information on body donation. Upon meeting the plastinator, 30 Americans signed up for body donation. Body Donors were pleasantly surprised and excited when Dr. Gunther von Hagens extended the invitation at the first US Body Donor forum held at the California Science Center, yesterday evening. Gunther von Hagens, whom the donors intend to give what is now their most valuable possession, said the following:

“My aim to ‘democratize’ anatomical knowledge is twofold. On one hand, I provide unprecedented access to anatomy and health education previously reserved for the medical elite. In addition to anatomical education for all, BODY WORLDS allows the public to attain what was previously reserved for heads of state and the rich & famous: top quality preservation of their own bodies.”

The body donors were visibly fascinated during their exclusive tour with the mind behind the BODY WORLDS exhibition. Some of their thoughts and motivations for body donation include:

"The exhibit at the California Science Center was amazing, a true demonstration of the beauty and the complexity of both the human body and the human mind (i.e. Gunther von Hagens). There can be no more glorious way to show the wonders of what God has chosen to create."

Lauren Rahn

“I am excited and relieved to know that plastination can offer me the chance to remain an integral part of the collective human experience--indefinitely."

Nicole Frank

“I was planning to donate my body to science and after hearing about Plastination and working as a Medical Information Specialist Volunteer for the exhibit I decided this is what I wanted to do with my body after I die”

Anne Schneider

About the Exhibition:
BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies is on display at the California Science Center through January 23, 2005, daily from 10 am to 9 pm (last admission 8pm). The 20,000-sq. ft. exhibit features more than 200 authentic human specimens, including entire plastinated bodies, individual organs and transparent body slices.

Plastination, a unique preservation process invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, provides the flexibility and strength needed to have freestanding bodies-in-motion, as well as to preserve organs, tissues, circulatory and nervous systems in their true-to-life form without the use of glass barriers or formaldehyde. The California Science Center is the only West Coast venue for BODY WORLDS, which has attracted more than 15 million visitors in Asia and Europe.

IMPORTANT Note to Editors and Reporters:
The Institute for Plastination, which developed this exhibit, requires members of the print and broadcast media to complete special user agreement forms before on-site coverage of BODY WORLDS is allowed. For your convenience, these forms may be found on the Science Center website media page at http://www.californiasciencecenter.org/GenInfo/MediaRoom.php.

Members of the press are welcome to an audio-guided tour of the exhibition and extensive press pack upon showing a valid press ID at the BODY WORLDS press desk by the exhibition entrance in the California Science Center.

For more information on the BODY WORLDS exhibition and body donation, please visit www.californiasciencecenter.com or www.bodyworlds.com.

To arrange interviews with Gunther von Hagens, U.S. & Int’l body donors or for further questions, please contact the press office.

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American Premiere of Gunther von Hagens' BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies at the California Science Center, July 2, 2004 – January 23, 2005

Los Angeles—BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies, a first-of-itskind exhibit in which visitors learn about anatomy, physiology and health by viewing real human bodies, preserved through an extraordinary new method called "plastination," opens at the California Science Center on July 2, 2004 and runs through January 23, 2005. This marks the premiere of BODY WORLDS in the Americas and is planned to be the only presentation of the exhibit on the West Coast.

BODY WORLDS, which has toured Asia and Europe to great acclaim, has drawn more than 15 million visitors. The 20,000 sq. ft. exhibit features more than 200 authentic human specimens, including entire bodies as well as individual organs and transparent body slices. This is the largest special exhibit ever mounted at the California Science Center.

Science Center President Jeffrey N. Rudolph notes that, "BODY WORLDS supports the educational mission of the Science Center. The use of authentic specimens gives vivid insight into anatomy and physiology, teaching lessons about health, and disease that could not be possible with constructed models, photos or textbooks. Ultimately, the use of real human bodies inspires new respect for the body and its incredible complexity while powerfully dispelling ignorance of how our lifestyle choices affect our bodies. People walk away from the exhibit wanting to take better care of their health."

Developed by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, BODY WORLDS is the first exhibition to display real human bodies that have been preserved by plastination, a technique Dr. von Hagens invented in 1977. This unique preservation process provides the flexibility and strength needed to have freestanding bodies-in-motion, as well as to preserve organs, tissues, circulatory and nervous systems in their true-to-life form without the use of glass barriers and formaldehyde.

The intricacies of the human body have long been the domain of health professionals. Anatomy classes, autopsies and dissections have typically been reserved for medical students and professionals. The general public has rarely been presented with the opportunity to understand the inner workings of our own bodies. BODY WORLDS opens the door to the public to gain profound insights into the structure and function of healthy and unhealthy bodies in a way that, to date, has not been possible on such a comprehensive scale.

BODY WORLDS effectively demonstrates the relationship between healthy lifestyles and healthy bodies. Guests can compare smokers and non-smokers lungs as well as healthy and unhealthy hearts. Ulcers and tumors are all visible in the exhibition, and give the public an opportunity to see details, which have been traditionally reserved for physicians. Close-up studies of health ailments, depicted in the exhibition, provide viewers an opportunity to re-evaluate their lifestyles and consider more healthful habits.

The exhibit includes whole body specimens with highlighted components as well as gradient specimens wherein the layers are made visible through ‘cut away’ components, which isolate anatomical details. The plastinates exhibit the locomotive system; nervous system; cardiovascular system, digestive system; kidney and urinary tract; reproductive system and blood vessels.

BODY WORLDS allows visitors to see the inter-connectedness of muscle, organ and vascular systems illustrated through plastinates, which are displayed in a variety of athletic poses. The plastinates include a soccer player, a basketball player, a swimmer, equestrian and runner.

The Process of Plastination
Plastination is a unique process invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens to preserve specimens for medical education. The process replaces the natural fluids in the body with reactive plastics that are initially pliable, and then harden after infusion. By hardening the plastic in the specimens, the bodies may be fixed into life-like poses, which illustrate how our bodies respond, internally, to movements in everyday athletic activities.

According to Gunther von Hagens, “It is the mission of BODY WORLDS to inform visitors, and to open up the opportunity, particularly to medical laymen, to better understand the body and its functions.”

In preparation for bringing the exhibit to the United States, the California Science Center established a Bio-Ethics Advisory Committee, which assisted in the review and consideration of the exhibit. This was one in a series of comprehensive steps to ensure the education value of the exhibit. The Science Center conducted an extremely thorough assessment, taking into account the possible controversy of the exhibit.

The consensus of the Bio-Ethics Advisory Committee was that the exhibit has considerable educational value and is appropriate for the Science Center as long as the donation of all bodies for pubic educational display is verified, and the donation forms meet high standards for disclosure and informed consent. The proper body donation procedures was confirmed by independent third party Bio-Ethicist, Dr. Hans-Martin Sass, who the Science Center contracted to travel to Germany and review the Institute for Plastination (IfP) files, and meet with the principals.

The Ethics committee made several other specific recommendations regarding the presentation and communication of the exhibit, which the Science Center staff is following.

The Ethics committee members are:

  • Father Richard Benson, Vincentian Fathers at St. John’s Seminar, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

  • David C. Blake, Ph. D., J.D., St. John’s Health Center

  • Rabbi Morley Feinstein, University Synagogue

  • Reverend Leonard Jackson, First African Methodist Episcopal Church and President, Los Angeles Council of Churches

  • Dr. Stanley Korenman, UCLA Medical Center

  • Reverend Cecil L. Murray, Senior Minister, First African Methodist Episcopal Church

  • Dr. Tom Weinberger, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Center for Medical Ethics

  • Dr. Neil Wenger, UCLA Healthcare Ethics Center

  • Ms. Frances M. Wiley, R.N., M.N., UCLA School of Medicine

To augment the guest experience during the run of BODY WORLDS, the Science Center IMAX Theater features The Human Body, a film that examines a day in the life of the body as it diligently goes about its complex set of everyday chores. Using innovative filmmaking techniques, combined with the latest medical and scientific imaging, the film shows us the amazing systems that keep our bodies running at full steam and the extraordinary marvels of life.

The BODY WORLDS exhibition is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the last admission at 8 p.m. Guests are encouraged to check the web site at: www.californiasciencecenter.org

BODY WORLDS admission prices are: $12 for adults; $9.50 for seniors 60+ and students age 13+ with I.D; and $5.75 for children 4 - 12. Member rates are $9.50 for adults and $5.50 for children. Special rates for schools and other groups of 15 and over apply. Combination ticket prices for BODY WORLDS and the IMAX film The Human Body are: $17.50 for adults; $13.00 for seniors and students; and $8.25 for children. Audio guides in English and Spanish are also available at $4.00 for adults and $2.00 for children. Admission to all other Science Center exhibits is free. Children under the age of 13 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

The California Science Center is located at 700 State Drive – Exposition Park, Los Angeles. Enter visitor parking at 39th & Figueroa Street. Parking is $6 per car. Due to the possibility of lines, please arrive early.

For general information, call 323.SCIENCE (323.724-3623) or visit our website at www.californiasciencecenter.org. Both the Science Center and IMAX Theater are wheelchair accessible.


Gunther von Hagens' Statement on the Plastination Exhibition in Beijing

In view of the numerous enquiries and the response to the many reports in the media, both nationally and internationally, on the opening of the Chinese copy of the "BODY WORLDS" exhibition in Beijing, Gunther von Hagens has made the following statement:

The exhibition in Beijing democratises anatomy in China:
Regrettably, I only found out after the event and via the press that Mr. Sui Hongjin, who used to be my General Manager, had staged and opened this event. I welcome Mr. Sui Hongjin's commitment to plastination and congratulate him on the considerable organisational talents he used to arrange this exhibition in Beijing. This now brings the democratisation of anatomy through plastination to Beijing, too -although I would have appreciated it if this had taken the form of an independent development rather than being a copy of some of our exhibits.

The "BODY WORLDS" brand name:
Our "BODY WORLDS" brand name was used without my knowledge and without my agreement. At the moment I have asked lawyers whether I should take legal action against the use of the "BODY WORLDS" name.

The fact that non-Chinese bodies are being presented contradicts Mr. Sui Hongjin's declaration on their origin:
I firmly deny the claim that I made European bodies from the body donation programme of the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg available to Mr. Sui Hongjin for his exhibition in Beijing. There is no basis whatsoever for this statement. I do not know where Mr. Sui Hongjin obtained these bodies. Until I receive proof to the contrary, I personally am assuming that he obtained these bodies in accordance with the laws that apply in the People's Republic of China. On 4 April 2004 Sui Hongjin explained to “www.sina.com.cn” that he obtained all bodies in accordance with the legal regulations and that the bodies concerned were predominantly the result of a natural death or were either unclaimed or had been abandoned when they were found. "For the resource of bodies, Dr. Sui said that all made specimens are from the medical college's original body resources. Related departments provide these bodies for medical anatomy test through legal way, they were mainly naturally dead, unclaimed or abandoned." This leads one to ask how European bodies found their way to this exhibition. According to an analysis by Professor Eduard Borsiak at the exhibition in Beijing on 14 April 2004, the thick sections of the body cut in parallel to the nose very probably originated from a European and definitely not from a Chinese person. Four further whole-body dissections are very likely of European origin. Thus the skull shape of the ligament plastinate would indicate that it is not of Chinese origin. This suspicion also arises in view of the various skull features of the chess player and the runner. The European proportions of the conductor would also indicate that they are not of Chinese origin.

As long as one can assume that the bodies for this exhibition were acquired legally, the question of nationality should not be raised. Such a discussion only promotes unacceptable racism in respect of the anatomy of a body after death for which no basis exists in the history of anatomy. No racist criteria are applied to skeletons either. Indeed, all over the world genuine human skeletons and permanent anatomical specimens are used and handled without any regard to nationality.

On the commercialisation of the exhibition:
Mr. Sui Hongjin told the Xinhua news agency that the exhibition in Beijing was not a commercial event but I cannot share this view. According to credible information in my possession, the exhibition was principally financed by a private Korean exhibition company. Reliable information has also been provided to show that the Korean company Kwon has already negotiated with various exhibition organisations for the exhibition currently on show in Beijing to go on loan on the international market.

On the quality of the exhibition:
Professor Borsiak, former Vice-Director of the I. Anatomical Institute in Moscow and a guest academic at the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg since 1993, assessed that the quality of the dissection and plastination techniques were only around 30% - 40% of our quality. The reasons he cited were as follows:

  1. Many muscles and muscle fibres were in the wrong position anatomically and were not dissected adequately.

  2. Tendons were often not processed.

  3. White spots can be seen on many organs because they have been cured incorrectly.

  4. Excess silicone has not been removed.

  5. Many internal organs have shrunk considerably, in particular the lung and heart.

  6. Many plastination tableaux smelt of fat, in particular the football players.

In addition to this, there is no systematic didactic element, which is essential if the exhibition is to be informative.

As I can prove from photos, the injected half kidney in the exhibition was produced by me.

The plastination work in slices is of inferior quality and this is apparently why only two were shown. The muscles have been dyed by a muscle dye that I developed.

Correction of a report by Agence France Press (The Standard, Hong Kong, 9 April 2004)

The report published by Agence France Press: "Von Hagens's exhibition has already been shown in the northern Chinese town of Dalian but it did not attract much attention," is incorrect. My former trainee managed and was responsible for this exhibition as well.

The first major plastination exhibition for the general public was held as early as 1999 (1 March - 31 August) in Vienna. The plastination work for this was produced by my first Chinese plastination trainee, Mr. Zheng Tian Zhong in Nanjing. Last year's exhibition shown in Hong Kong and Tokyo also came from Nanjing and this was sold to a Japanese company under the management of Mr. Ataka.

April 13, 2004
Gunther von Hagens
Plastinator

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