I found this slightly-battered softcover at a local thrift shop, and was pleased to have another release copy of this entertaining book.
This is wonderful, laugh-out-loud stuff, a popular-science look at the history of being dead, more or less. [Other books of mine that have dealt with this topic include the wonderful "Death to Dust" and the quirky "Death: The Trip of a Lifetime"; and I have a copy of this one on my keeper shelves.] A blend of history, science, quips, and commentary - informative, sometimes startling, and very funny.
"This is a book about notable achievements made while dead.... This is a book about the sometimes odd, often shocking, always compelling things cadavers have done. Not that there's anything wrong with just lying around on your back. In its way, rotting is interesting too, as we will see. It's just that there are other ways to spend your time as a cadaver. Get involved with science. Be an art exhibit. Become part of a tree. Some options for you to think about.
"Death. It doesn't have to be boring."
Definitely a fun read, if you're not squeamish about this sort of thing. (Some bits actually did get to me - in the chapters on the use of cadavers for safety-testing, there are also accounts of the experiments done when cadavers (and/or test dummies) aren't available, and a lot of those use animals. Not sure why I can put up with a lot of grue about people but not about the hapless livestock or potential housepets who got drafted...) On the cheerier side, much of the book points out improvements in many fields, from testing firearms to automobile-safety tests to plastic surgery techniques; some of these improvements result from the use of cadavers, and others involve new technologies such as the vastly entertaining "human tissue simulant," a kind of stiff gelatine [made by Kind & Knox - yes, *that* Knox] used to demonstrate the paths of bullets through people-sized chunks of the stuff. (The gelatine doesn't close back up the way tissue does, so the cavity caused on impact can be easily seen. Don't know if you wanted to know that...) "Ballistic gelatin is essentially a tweaked version of Knox dessert gelatin. It is denser than dessert gelatin, having been formulated to match the average density of human tissue, is less colorful, and, lacking sugar, is even less likely to please dinner guests." [I've been able to see a LOT of ballistics gel in use - on the Mythbusters TV series!]
Not a book for all tastes, certainly, but entertaining and informative nonetheless. I liked the chapter on the work that's being done to promote "composting" as an alternate method of burial, for example - one technique involves freeze-drying the body and then - er, well, for good compost you want your materials in small chunks, so - oh, you get the idea.