Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

By Mary Roach

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

27 Quotes    4.1 

Stiff is a strangely compelling, often hilarious exploration of our postmortem bodies' strange lives. Cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in the boldest steps and strangest undertakings of science for two thousand years. Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the ... centuries in this fascinating account and tells our bodies' engrossing story when we are no longer with them.



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Quotes from Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

there is a photograph of zugibe and one of his volunteers in the aforementioned sindon article. zugibe is dressed in a knee-length white lab coat and is shown adjusting one of the vital sign leads affixed to the man's chest. the cross reaches almost to the ceiling, towering over zugibe and his bank of medical monitors. the volunteer is naked except for a pair of gym shorts and a hearty mustache. he wears the unconcerned, mildly zoned-out expression of a person waiting at a bus stop. neither man appears to have been self-conscious about being photographed this way. i think that when you get yourself down deep into a project like this, you lose sight of how odd you must appear to the rest of the world.

The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.

The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken. I have never before had occasion to make the comparison, for never before today have I seen a head in a roasting pan.

I walk up and down the rows. The heads look like rubber halloween masks. They also look like human heads, but my brain has no precedent for human heads on tables or in roasting pans or anywhere other than on top of a human bodies, and so I think it has chosen to interpret the sight in a more comforting manner. - Here we are at the rubber mask factory. Look at the nice men and woman working on the masks.

It is astounding to me, and achingly sad, that with eighty thousand people on the waiting list for donated hearts and livers and kidneys, with sixteen a day dying there on that list, that more then half of the people in the position H's family was in will say no, will choose to burn those organs or let them rot. We abide the surgeon's scalpel to save our own lives, out loved ones' lives, but not to save a stranger's life. H has no heart, but heartless is the last thing you'd call her.

Death. It doesn't have to be boring.

Reviews of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Author of the “My Planet” column in Reader’s Digest and a regular contributor to’s “Health and Body” section, Roach displays here a knack for persuading morticians, scientists, engineers, and others whose work involves corpses to let her watch them at their labors.

Roach delves into the many productive uses to which cadavers have been put, from medical experimentation to applications in transportation safety research (in a chapter archly called "Dead Man Driving") to work by forensic scientists quantifying rates of decay under a wide array of bizarre circum...

Mary Roach's enormous cast of characters is the unluckiest in recent nonfiction.

Well, a smattering of potentially-off-putting topics in this book include a detailed narrative of bodily decay, using human heads for plastic surgery practice classes, the fine art of body snatching (not to be confused with grave robbing where the only thing taken is stuff), impact tolerances (su...

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