Friday, December 26, 2008

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

This was one of the books I checked out from the library to read over break and I have to say, it is filled with interesting information about what happens when you donate your body to science after you die. Each chapter is on a different topic, so I've been skipping around in the book, reading the parts that interest me. The chapter I found most fascinating was the one where they studied the decomposing cadavers to find information about the rate of decomposition to use for forensic investigations. However, I don't find it interesting enough to work in the field for a living.

The whole book got me thinking about what happens to our bodies when we die. I knew that we decompose, but I really hadn't ever considered how that happened. The book reminded me of all the bacteria living on and in us and as soon as we die, we can't keep their populations in check and our tissues become the ultimate feeding ground.

It is a catchy book written for anyone interested in learning about the life of a cadaver...I recommend it (as long as you don't have a queasy stomach!)

Here is a brief synopsis of the book:

An oddly compelling, often hilarious forensic exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers--some willingly, some unwittingly--have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They've tested France's first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender reassignment surgery, cadavers have been there alongside surgeons, making history in their quiet way. In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries--from the anatomy labs and human-sourced pharmacies of medieval and nineteenth-century Europe to a human decay research facility in Tennessee, to a plastic surgery practice lab, to a Scandinavian funeral directors' conference on human composting. In her droll, inimitable voice, Roach tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

More details
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
By Mary Roach
Published by W. W. Norton & Company, 2003
ISBN 0393050939, 9780393050936
303 pages

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