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BODY WORLDS - The Cycle of Life, Palexpo, 21 September 2017 - 7 January 2018

A major exhibition has opened in Geneva this week revealing the secrets of our anatomy.

Called BODY WORLDS – The Cycle of Life, the new exhibition is one in a series of exhibitions, first launched in 1995 with aim of informing the public about anatomy, physiology, and health, through the use of real human bodies. Created using an advanced  procedure for preserving the human body, each of the exhibits on display has been carefully selected to reveal the inner workings of the human body and its organs, and to help us understand their evolution through time.

Over 200 human specimens, entire bodies, isolated organs and transparent sections are now on show at Palexpo until 7 January 2018. Displays include anatomical studies of the human body, in different stages from birth to death, which have been preserved using a technique called Plastination. Originally invented by the anatomist, Dr. Gunther von Hagens, in 1977, this process prevents the decay of biological tissues by replacing bodily fluids with silicone.

Healthy living

Whilst the preservation of real human bodies for use at a public exhibition certainly raises a number of ethical questions, there can be no doubt about the huge impact of the exhibition on its visitors.  Whilst some are fascinated by the minute detail of the anatomical structures on display, others are struck more by the overriding message that is conveyed throughout the exhibition...the importance of looking after your body and living a healthy lifestyle; by viewing healthy and diseased organs side by side, visitors learn not only about the aesthetic functioning of their own bodies, but also the effects of known diseases or addictions such as tobacco or alcohol.

bodyworlds runners

Emphasising this point at a press conference to launch the exhibition in Geneva on 20 September, exhibition curator Dr. Angelina Whalley explained that in a recent survey of visitors conducted half a year after they had been to a BODY WORLDS exhibition, 9% said they had stopped smoking, 33% said they were eating healthier food, and 25% said they were now doing more exercise!

Target audience

BODY WORLDS – The Cycle of Life will appeal to anyone interested in life sciences, indeed anybody who wishes to discover what lies beneath his/her skin and who wants to understand more about our predisposition to living longer and the lifestyles that contribute to longevity.

By displaying human bodies in a variety of different poses, visitors can see at a glance the effect of certain actions on their bodies such as skiing and cycling, or even playing the guitar! Whatever your interest, it is more than likely that you will find a display that you can instantly relate to.

bodyworlds guitar

Given the nature of the displays, the exhibition is considered suitable for children 12 years and over. It is the responsibility of accompanying parents to decide whether children younger than this age should visit.

Touring the exhibition

Possibly one of the most moving displays of the exhibition is the area devoted to  plastinated human embryos at various stages of their development.  Whilst we have all seen photos of embryos in books, this is nothing compared to seeing them in 3D. Additional displays of plastinated placentas, taken during pregnancy and displayed from both the maternal and foetal sides, highlight the fragility of life at this key stage in our development.

A major attraction for many visitors will be the ease with which they can relate personally to many of the exhibits on display.  You only have to glance at the plastinated hip-replacement or knee-replacement to understand immediately the complexity involved in such operations.

bodyworlds fractured bone

A digital simulation of your own body shows how your own bones, muscles and organs move in relation to each other as you adopt different positions in front of a screen.  See what happens to your biceps and pectoral muscles when you lift your arms in the air, or watch your femur and tibia move in harmony as you swing your leg around!

Some of the most informative displays on show are those that show slices through various sections of the body.  A series of slices through the brain demonstrates clearly the role of cerebral arteries during a migraine, whilst body slices are used to show the impact of obesity on life expectancy.

For visiting artists, there is an interesting display about the impressionist painters, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, who both had a different perception of their environment because of cataracts. A representation of visual acuity at birth and in old age provides an interesting insight into the evolution of sight.

bodyworlds migraine

Audio guide

For most visitors, the detailed explanations provided with each exhibit in English, French and German, are sufficient to gain a basic understanding of the human anatomy.

However, if you want to find out more about what inspired Dr. Gunther von Hagens's work, and get a more detailed explanation of the samples on display, you are advised to take an audio guide with you. As you make your way through the exhibition, Dr. Gunther von Hagen explains the evolution of anatomical research and the plastination process and, importantly, the motivation of the human body donors without whom the BODY WORLDS exbibitions would not be possible.

The most successful touring exhibition in the world!

BODY WORLDS has already attracted more than 44 million visitors worldwide. At the time of writing, exhibitions have been staged in 115 cities across 26 countries in Europe, America, Africa and Asia.

bodyworlds back

This is not the first time BODY WORLDS has come to Switzerland - before Geneva, it came to Basel in 1999 and 2011, and Zurich in 1999, with around a million visitors in total!

The exhibitions are being constantly improved and presented in different formats, namely:

  • BODY WORLDS Vital – celebrates the potential of the human body.
  • BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life – shows the body living through time.
  • BODY WORLDS & The Story of the Heart – covers cardiovascular health and disease prevention.
  • BODY WORLDS: Pulse – looks at health and 21st century living.
  • BODY WORLDS: The Happiness Project – considers the effects of happiness on our well-being.
  • BODY WORLDS RX – focuses on the prescription for a healthy life.

Since 2010, ANIMAL INSIDE OUT has been touring the world. This exhibition, offers a unique exploration of what lies beneath the surface of many amazing animals, large and small.

bodyworlds horse

Body donation program

BODY WORLDS exhibitions are based on an established body donation program through which  body donors specifically request that their bodies be used in a public exhibition after their deaths.

Currently, there are more than 16,000 donors, including 96 Swiss citizens, registered in the body donation program.


Plastination was invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977 at the University of Heidelberg, Germany and it has been continuously developed since then.  It is a complex technique that halts the decomposition of the dead body and produces solid, odourless and durable anatomical specimens for scientific and medical training.

The production of a human whole body plastinate requires approximately 1,500 working hours.The world’s tallest plastinate is an adult elephant, measuring 6 x 3,50 metres!

bodyworlds pplastination

BODY WORLDS – The Cycle of Life
21 September 2017 - 7 January 2018
Palexpo Halle 7, Geneva
Ticket prices from Fr. 16.- to Fr. 25.- including audio guide
Tickets on sale from 28 June 2017 on the Ticketcorner network
Body Worlds - The Cycle of Life is suitable for children aged 12 and over. It is the responsibility of accompanying adults to decide if children aged younger than 12 may visit the exhibition.
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10h to 19h (last admissions at 17h30), 24 and 31 December from 10h to 16h (last admissions at 14h30)


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