Dr. Gunther von Hagens

Inventor of Plastination — Creator of BODY WORLDS

Bringing the anatomy of humans and animals to audiences worldwide: Dr. Gunther von Hagens is not only a physician and anatomist but also a scientist and inventor. He is recognized as a forward-thinking free spirit who made the human body accessible for education and research in unprecedented ways.

In 1945, Gunther von Hagens was born in Alt-Skalden (known today as Skalmierzyce, Poland). At the age of 20, he began his studies in medicine at the University of Jena in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), “East Germany”. In 1968, he became a political prisoner in the GDR, however he was released in 1970 when the Federal Republic of Germany, “West Germany” purchased his freedom.  He then continued his studies in Lübeck, where he passed his final exams in 1973, and, a year later received his license to practice medicine. Subsequently, he accepted a job offer by Heidelberg University, where he obtained his doctoral degree from the Department of Anesthesia and Emergency Medicine. He then transferred to the Institute of Anatomy and Pathology, and shortly thereafter became an inventor.

In 1977, he began developing reactive polymers that allowed the forced impregnation of anatomical specimens, leading to his remarkable invention of plastination. As early as 1978, he founded his company, BIODUR® Products, that sells polymers, as well as auxiliaries and equipment for the plastination process. By the early 1980’s he began the first (and through today only) body donation program for Plastination. He founded the Institute for Plastination in 1993, and soon thereafter, reached another milestone: In 1995, Dr. von Hagens and curator Dr. Angelina Whalley opened the first BODY WORLDS exhibition showing real anatomical specimens—there are now about ten exhibitions that have traveled around the world, where they have been enthusiastically viewed by millions of people.

While BODY WORLDS has become a major success, Dr. von Hagens has remained focused on his teaching at universities all over the world, as well as on perfecting his plastination technique. Consequently in November of 2006, Dr. von Hagens founded Gubener Plastinate GmbH, the world’s largest specialized plastination laboratory.

In 2010 Dr. von Hagens finally decided to dedicate an entire exhibition to animals and created the ANIMAL INSIDE OUT exhibition. It has been traveling various countries since then, fascinating people of all ages and cultures.

In February 2015, his dream of opening a permanent BODY WORLDS Museum, the Menschen Museum in Berlin, finally came true. Both are a natural extension of Dr. von Hagens’ nearly forty-year career as an anatomist and advocate of public health and public anatomy.