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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

by Mary Roach
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

by Mary Roach


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Beloved, best-selling science writer Mary Roach’s “acutely entertaining, morbidly fascinating” (Susan Adams, Forbes) classic, now with a new epilogue.

For two thousand years, cadavers – some willingly, some unwittingly – have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They’ve tested France’s first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender confirmation surgery, cadavers have helped make history in their quiet way. “Delightful—though never disrespectful” (Les Simpson, Time Out New York), Stiff investigates the strange lives of our bodies postmortem and answers the question: What should we do after we die?

“This quirky, funny read offers perspective and insight about life, death and the medical profession. . . . You can close this book with an appreciation of the miracle that the human body really is.” —Tara Parker-Pope, Wall Street Journal

“Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting.” —Entertainment Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393881721
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 08/31/2021
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 15,091
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mary Roach is the author of seven best-selling works of nonfiction, including Stiff, Bonk, and Gulp. Her writing has appeared in Outside, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications.


San Francisco, California

Place of Birth:

New Hampshire


B.A., Wesleyan University, 1981

Table of Contents

Introduction 9

1 A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste 19

Practicing surgery on the dead

2 Crimes of Anatomy 37

Body snatching and other sordid tales from the dawn of human dissection

3 Life After Death 61

On human decay and what can be done about it

4 Dead Man Driving 87

Human crash test dummies and the ghastly, necessary science of impact tolerance

5 Beyond the Black Box 113

When the bodies of the passengers must tell the story of a crash

6 The Cadaver Who Joined the Army 131

The sticky ethics of bullets and bombs

7 Holy Cadaver 157

The crucifixion experiments

8 How to Know If You're Dead 167

Beating-heart cadavers, live burial, and the scientific search for the soul

9 Just a Head 199

Decapitation, reanimation, and the human head transplant

10 Eat Me 221

Medicinal cannibalism and the case of the human dumplings

11 Out of the Fire, into the Compost Bin 251

And other new ways to end up

12 Remains of the Author 281

Will she or won't she?

Epilogue 293

Acknowledgments 301

Bibliography 303

What People are Saying About This

Susan Orlean

Droll, dark, and quite wise, Stiff makes being dead funny and fascinating and weirdly appealing.

From the Publisher

"Not grisly but inspiring, this work considers the many valuable scientific uses of the body after death." —-Library Journal

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