Gunther von Hagens

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Gunther von Hagens (born Gunther Liebchen, 10 January 1945) is a controversial German anatomist who invented the technique for preserving biological tissue specimens called plastination.



He was born to Gunther Gerhard Liebchen in Skalmierzyce (then called Alt-Skalden) near Kalisz, Reichsgau Wartheland in western Poland. At the age of five days his parents took him on a six-month trek west to escape the imminent Soviet occupation. His father Gerhard Liebchen had served in the German SS as a cook.[3] Gunther grew up in East Germany. The family lived briefly in Berlin and its vicinity, before finally settling in Greiz, a small town where von Hagens remained until age nineteen.

A haemophiliac, as a child he spent six months in hospital after being injured. This stimulated an interest in medical science and in 1965 he commenced studies in medicine at the University of Jena. While at the university, von Hagens began to question Communism and Socialism, and widened his knowledge of politics by gathering information from Western news sources. He participated in student protests against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops. In January 1969, disguised as a vacationing student, von Hagens made his way across Bulgaria and Hungary, and on 8 January attempted to cross the Czechoslovakian border into Austria. He failed, but made a second attempt the next day, at another location along the border.[4] He was arrested and punished with two years in jail.[5]

West Germany bought his freedom in 1970[6] and he continued his medical studies in Lübeck, and received a doctorate in 1975 from the University of Heidelberg. There he would work at the Institutes of Anatomy and Pathology as a lecturer for twenty two years.[7]

Dr von Hagens is best known for his plastination technique, which he invented in 1977 and patented in the following year.[8][9] Subsequently, he developed the technique further, and founded the Institute of Plastination in Heidelberg in 1993. He has been visiting professor in Dalian, China since 1996, where he runs a plastination center, and also directs a plastination center at the State Medical Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Since 2004 he is also guest professor at New York University College of Dentistry.[10]

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