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Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature

Human Dissection: A Social Consensus

The cryosection of a man displayed vertically showing all of the muscles, nerves, and bones. The Visible Human. Courtesy of the National Institute of Health.
The Visible Human. Courtesy of the National Institute of Health.

In 1993, technicians sliced the body of an executed murderer into thousands of razor-thin sections. Today, photographed and digitized, these tissue sections help teach anatomy and surgical techniques, and people can view them for free on the World Wide Web. The researchers who undertook The Visible Human Project (sponsored by the National Library of Medicine) sought and received the condemned man's permission to use his body. Social consensus on issues of human dissection represents the culmination of years of public debate, from before Mary Shelley's time to our own.

Images of the Visible Human are available from the National Library of Medicine's website.