Embalming: Principles and Legal Aspects
Note: Page numbers followed by t indicate tables; numbers followed by f indicate figures
Abdomen, nine regions of 102f, 102t
aorta 77, 112
aorta bifurcates 71
cavity 119
aspiration of 103
removal of 109
regions to locate to internal organs 101
wall 13
branches, lateral 70
tributaries from 71
Absinthi 13
Accavederata 13
Acid glutaraldehyde 43
Acids 21
use of solutions of 17
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome 41, 128, 131, 165
Actin 56
Adenodiphosphate 56
Adipocere 58
formation of 54, 58
Aerosols, form of 40f
algor 54
fever 54
period 54
handling in preparation room 42
pressure machine 95
Albert H Worsham 31
Algor mortis 54, 114
Alkali salts 17
Alkalies 21
Alkaline 55
Alkalinized (cidex) glutaraldehyde 43
Aloes 8, 13
Alum 18
acetate of 18
salts of 21
Ambroise Pare (1510–1590) 13
Aminoglycosides 125
Ammonia 121
chloride 27
nitrate 138
Amphetamines 124, 125
Amytal 124
Anatomical considerations 63
Anatomical dissection 13
Anatomical specimens, collection of 14
Anatomists, period of (AD 650–1861) 11
Anatomy departments 182
ethiopians 8
persians 8
restorative art 6
Anethi 13
Animals experimental 181
Antibiotic chemotherapy, combination of 122
Anticoagulants 83
sodium citrate 83
Antihypertensives anticlotting agents 125
Anti-inflammatory drugs 123
Antimicrobial procedures 50t
Aorta 67, 70
arch of 68, 75
ascending 68, 75, 112
descending 68
Appendix 102
Aqueous 49
formalin 51
Army order for embalmers 25
Arsenic 27
Arsenicals 21
Arterial fluid for
obese subjects, composition of 85t
preparation of 110
thin subjects, composition of 85
Arterial injection 2, 119
and cavity treatment 2
chemicals, rate of flow of 44
of the blood vessels 33
Arterial route 110
Arteries and veins of upper limb 66f
Arteries of
abdomen 70
body 75
head and neck 64, 64f
lower limb 71
neck 64
common carotid artery 64
external carotid artery 64
internal carotid artery 64
subclavian artery 64
thorax and abdomen 68f
upper limbs 66
Arteriosclerosis 117
Artery forceps 148f
Artery in autopsied bodies, choice of 93
Artificial cold 2
Ascites 116
Aspergillus 56
Asthma-like symptoms 180
Astonishing 35
Atherosclerosis 117
Atomic bombardment 35
Auguste Renouard's chemical formulas for embalming fluid 28f
Auricular artery, posterior 64
Autodigestion of gastric mucosa 56
Autolysis 56
body 110
preparation of 109
gloves 131
postmortem examination of dead body 109
precautions for 168
Axilla, contents of 76f
Axillary and brachia/arteries 76
artery 66
vein 67
Babylonians 8
Bacteremia 44
agents 40
etiology 41
septicemias 47
wound infections 47
Balantidium aerogenes capsulatus 56
Balantidium coli 56
Balantidium proteus 56
Balsami 13
Barbed tracks 35
Barbiturates 124, 125
Bard-Parker solution 43
Baron Leopold Cuvier (1769–1832) 17
Bartholin (1585–1629): developed continuous flow syringe 12
Basler solution, composition of 186
Belly Punchers 33
Benjamin F Lyford 26
Benjoini 13
Benzedrine 124
Bernardino Ramazzini 20
Betadine 49
Bichloride of mercury 21, 27
Biohazard 131
circulation of 73
changes at birth 74
fetal 73
cleaning and decontaminating spills of 171
clots 125
vascular system 26
vessels, removed blood 12
vessels, surface anatomy and exposure of 75
Blow fly 118
cavities 108
contusion of 55t
flesh of 9
fluid precautions 131
identification of 134
orifices 109
packing polythene bag 108
preservation of 8, 88
proteins 92
size and weight of 110
circulatory 53
nervous 53
respiratory 53
tissue pH 55
wash and dry 108
wrapping bandage soaked in petroleum jelly 108
Boric acid 138
Brachial artery 67
artery 75
trunk 68
left 69
right 69
adult 58
removal of 60, 109
British Epidemiology Study 163
British Medical Research Council's Environmental Epidemiology Unit 163
Buccal cavity 163
Buffered and unbuffered, composition of 91
Buffers 82
Burn injuries 109
Cadaver storage facilities 90
lividity 55
spasm 56
drying of 12
type of 88
Calami aromat 13
Calliphora erythrocephala 118
Camphor 27
powder of 17
Canadian Funeral Licensees 163
Canary islands 8
Cancer chemotherapeutic agents 123
Cancer chemotherapy 125
Candida 127
Canopic urns 6f
Carbolic acid 82
Carcinogenicity of formaldehyde 181
Carl Lewis Barnes 31
Carotid artery
common 17, 75, 112
external 75
internal 75
Caryophyll 13
closure of 111
embalming 101
instruments required for 101
period for 103
composition of 86, 131
injection of 103
injection and immersion 2
injector 101
advocates 33
chemicals, use of 46
need of 101
techniques 46
Cecum 102
Cedar, cases of 7
artery 77
trunk 70
death 55
membranes less permeable 125
Cellular death 53
early changes 54
Cellular material 56
Cellular metabolism 55
Centers for Disease Control 131
Central nervous system 40
Cerebral artery
anterior 64
middle 64
Cerebrospinal fluid 40
Cervical artery, superficial 65
Cervical injection 93
Cervical portion of trachea, removal of 109
Chamomile 13
agents and drugs 120
and ingredients 81
and physical decontamination, methods of 47
body defense 39
constituents of soft embalming 138t
for embalming and techniques 22
sterilant 43
substance, type of 120
Chemotherapeutic agent 122
Chemotherapeutic agents, problems caused 125
case 121
problems, possible solutions to 126
treatment of disease 120
Chickenpox 44
Chin rest method 106
Chloride of alumina 18
Chlorine compounds 49
Chlorpropamide (diabinese) 124
Choroidal artery 64
Cidex 49
Cinamoni 13
Cincinnati College of Embalming 30
Circle of Willis 64
Circulation, cessation of 54
drugs 125
system 20
Circumflex iliac artery, superficial 71
Cisterna cerebellomedullaris 51
Civil war times 21
Clarence G strub 31
Clean up procedure 132
Clearance from embassy 135
Close eye method 106
Clostridium welchii 55
Cloth fluid 118t
composition of 87t
Clotting 107
Cocaine 124, 125
Coffins shaped 7
Coils of small intestine 102
Colic artery
inferior left 70
middle 70
right 70
superior left 70
Colonel Ellsworth's embalming 22
Communicating artery, posterior 64
Compazine 124
Concurrent disinfection 42
Confirmed studies 39
Consent 134
Contact dermatitis 180
Copper-mercury alum 18
Cornelius stated 26
Coronary artery
left 68
right 68
Coroner's physician 22
Corticosteroids 123, 125
and presentation 133
treatment 108
use of 133
ornamental 133
technical 133
Costocervical trunk 65
Cotton-like circulatory blockages 125
Crane's electrodynamic mummifier 27
Cranial cavity 109, 111
aspiration of 103
Creosote 26
Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease 88
Criminal abortions 109
Crooked spine 7
Cryptococcus 127
Cut diaphragm 60
Cuticle intact 55
Cut-up benches 197
Cyperi 13
Cytotoxic drugs act 123
Daniel H Prunk (1829–1923) 24
Dark ages 12
Dead body, luminescence of 57
Dead methods of disposal 58
and postmortem changes 53
baby 109
biological 53
brainstem 53
cause of 110
cellular 53
cerebral 53
clinical 53
individual cells 53
molecular 53
stage of somatic 53
types of 53
molecular death 53
somatic 53
whole brain 53
Decontamination 42
embalmer(s) 43
Decubitus ulcers 117
Deep cervical artery 65
Deep external pudendal artery 71
Deep veins 65, 67, 73
femoral vein 73
popliteal vein 73
Dehydration 59, 125
Dental tie method 106
Dentistry, precautions for 168
Deodorants 84
Determine concentration 182
Dexedrine 124
Dialysis, precautions for 169
Diaparine chloride 49
Diluents 84
Diodorus siculus 4
Discussion with staff 183
Disinfect body 112
Disinfectant 131
solution 109
intermediate-level 49
low-level 49
Disinfection 170
Disinfection 84
activity, levels of 49t
and decontamination chemistry 39
antimicrobial activity 84
concurrent 48
disinfectant 84
germicide 84
high-level 48
primary 48
sterilization 84
terminal 48
and demonstration purposes 185
material 191
rooms, working environment in 188t
Domestic flies, types of 118
Doorway 149
Dorsal venous arch 67
Dorsalis pedis artery 78
Dosi-tube readings for formaldehyde vapor 91t
Double rubber gloves 129
Drainage technique 98
contents of drainage 98
drainage sites 99
femoral vein 99
inferior vena cava 99
internal jugular vein 99
right atrium of the heart 99
methods of 100
alternate drainage 100
concurrent (continuous) drainage 100
intermittent drainage 100
purpose of drainage 99
Droplet infection particle 40
Droplet nuclei 40, 51
cold 1
grass 10
heat 1
Duamutef 6f
Dutch physician Peter Forestus (1522–1597) 12
Dyes 83
eosin 83
ponceau 83
Ears cavity 107
Earthquakes 35
Ecuador 9
Egypt's new Kingdom period 59
burial site 3f
embalming practice 7
law 11
preparation steps in 5
covering with natron 6
evisceration 5
removal from natron 6
removal of brain 5
wrapping and spicing 6
aspirator 101
pump 148f
Embalmed cadavers 137
Embalmer 42
arterial 33
as sanitarian 40
legal responsibility 134
self-manufactured 21
AIDS body, guidelines for 128
anatomical 117
and chemical manufacturers association 39
and subsequent dissection 91t
art and science of 33
bodies in state of rigor mortis 114
body 147
exposed to radiation 116
burnt bodies 116
certificate of 135
changing room 148
chemical continuously 21
chemicals 81
completion of 131
decomposed bodies 115
delayed 114
facilities, establishment of 146
fluids 40, 81f, 84, 88, 130
arterial fluid 85
cavity fluid 85
composition of four different 91t
percentage composition of 89
preinjection fluid 86
to kill microorganisms 82
hands 108
history of 18, 20
human dead bodies, form of application for 134
human remains, recommended minimum standards for 44
hypodermic 95
ideal method of 108
improvement in 26
infant procedure 112
cavity treatment 113
fluid strengths and volume 113
pressure 113
rate of flow of injection 113
selection of blood vessels 112
knowledge 21
methods of 95, 129
arterial embalming 95, 129
cavity embalming 95, 129
supplemental methods of 95, 129
hypodermic embalming 130
surface embalming 130
variation in 3
modern 92
multidisciplinary science of 39
near battlefield during the civil war 24f
need of 146
origin and history of 1
periods of history 2
powders 159
practical 92
practice of 32
preparation room 148
procedure 12, 90, 130
arterial embalming 95
electric pump 95
gravity injection 95
hypodermic embalming 96
process and materials 12
process of 105
professionalism in 33
refrigerated bodies 115
reports concerning arterial injection 32
room 129, 146, 156
equipment and furniture 147
preparation 148
establishment of 2
increase in 31
soft 137
alternative to thiel 138
procedure 137
role of various components of 138
solutions, look for alternative 183
specific purpose of 14
surface 95
surgeons of the civil war 22
table 35
techniques, modern 88
third mode of 4
unautopsied adult bodies 105
unit 178f
waiting room 149
invasion 40
microflora 40
Endothelial, surface of pleura 57
Endothelium of blood sinusoid 189f
Endotracheal tubings 128
England's customs and achievements 14
Environment 39
safety branch 41
Enzyme 121
action of 56
immunoassay 172
Eosin 85
Epigastric artery, superficial 71
Equanil 124
Esophagus, removal of 109
Ethyl alcohol 51
Ethylene glycol 138
monophenyl ether 190
Ethylene oxide gas 51
Europe from the dark ages, emergence of 11
Europe's access to cadavers 17
Evisceration 2
and drying 2
and immersion 2
local incision 2
Exhaust duct against the back wall 43f
and cannulation 94
effects of 162
External pudendal artery, superficial 71
and respiratory tract, effects on 194
bank story 32
changes in 54
irritation of 180
osiris 61
Facemask 129
Facial vein 66
Factory accidents 109
Falcon electric embalmer 35
Falconry 19
Faulty theories 39
Felix Aloysius Sullivan (1843–1931) 30
Femoral artery 17, 71, 77, 107, 112
Femoral triangle 77f
Fetal death 109
Fixative solutions, composition of 186
Flaccidity muscles 55
primary 55, 114
secondary 56, 114
Flammable gas 179
for nervous tissue 87
manufacture 21
oozes 108
required, quantity of 86
Forceps 147f
autopsy 109
expert 109
Forestus embalming 12
Formaldehyde 49, 51, 81, 91, 138, 193
adverse effects of 179
alternatives to 89
and cancer 194
and paraformaldehyde
methods and materials 152
results 152
chemical structure of 81f
concentration 152, 158, 163, 159t
comparison of ventilation systems 153
dissection rooms 180
in anatomy laboratories 180
in funeral homes 153t
demand 121
exposure, reported studies on effects of 162
fumes 34
in anatomy 179
in long-term preservation of human anatomical specimens 185
in Medical Schools in the UK, use of 89
in pathology departments 193
levels, experiments to monitor 90
mutagenicity of 181
properties of 179
risks and problems in the use of 88
safe levels of 88
safe limit of 157
study in funeral homes 151
study in preparation rooms 158
tolerance to 194
toxicity 158
transfer of concentrate 178
vapor emission study 156
workers 151
Formalin 34, 85, 87
Foul-smelling gases, liberation of 57
Francois Chaussier (1746–1828) 17
Freezing 1
Frozen cases 105
Frozen solid state 115
Fume cupboards 196
Fume extraction unit 198f
Fumigation 198
Funeral home 153
personal health policies 44
Fungal infection 117
Fungal infections 44, 47
Gabriel clauderus (late 17th century) 14
Galen's teachings and writings on human anatomy 11
Gall capillaries 189f
Gaseous compounds injected 26
Gases, liberation of 57
Gastric juice 56
tract 40, 119
ulcerations 123
General guidelines 43
Genicular artery, descending 71
Genitourinary tract 40
Gentiana 13
Germicide protective barrier attire 51
Germicides 82
Germs die with the host 39
Girolamo Segato 19
Gloves 131
Gluing lips 106
Glutaraldehyde 49, 82
activated 51
Gluteal artery
inferior 70
superior 70
Glycerin 85
Glycerol 91
Glycolytic 56
Goatskins 9
Goggles 129
Grave wax 58
Gravity fluid injection 20f
Guanches’ method of embalming 9
Hair covering 129
Handling sharp instruments 131
Harlan's translation of history of embalming 19f
Hazardous chemical particulates 42
Head and face, injection treatment of 110
Health hazard 149
Healthcare workers
acquiring HIV in healthcare settings 166
definition of 165
management of exposures 174
testing of 174
with AIDS 165
Heart 63, 63f
right side of 102
surfaces diaphragmatic (inferior) 63
surfaces left surface 63
surfaces sternocostal (anterior) 63
simple 1
sterilization 51
Hepatic veins 71
Hepatitis 109
B virus 174
Hepatocytes with cytosomes 189f
Hinged instruments 50
Histoplasma infections 127
Homicides 109
Host of salts 21
Hot tap water 138
Household bleach 109
Housekeeping 170
Howard S Eckels (1865-1837), manufacturer of embalming chemicals 31
Human immunodeficiency virus 41, 128, 165, 172t
antibody tests 173t
in environment, survival of 130, 170
infection during pregnancy 132
infection, serologic testing for 172
precautions to prevent transmission of 167
testing of patients 173
transmission in healthcare settings 165
transmission, environmental considerations for 170
liver stained 189f
remains 42
skeleton 79f
Hydrochloric acid 21
Hydrocyanic acid poisoning 55
embalming 115
needles 50
Hypostasis 55
Hypostasis stain 57
Ileocolic artery 70
Iliac artery
common 70, 77
external 70, 77, 112
internal 70
Iliac veins
external 71
internal 71
Iliolumbar artery 70
contagious 88
terminal 88
Immersion solution 138
Immunization 43
Incisions, various types of 94, 94f
combined 94
longitudinal 94
transverse 94
wedge 94
Indian Medical Council 144
Industrial methylated spirit 89, 91
Infected healthcare workers, management of 174
danger of 200
prevalence of 172
risk-handle with care 129
risks of 46
agent 47
diseases, refusal on the ground of 136
hepatitis 47
Infective waste 171
Information, lack of 40
Ingestion 194
Inguinal ligament 71
Inhalation of infectious 42
Inhaling formaldehyde, adverse effects of 181t
Injected wax to secure castings 12
and drainage 107
solution 138
syringe 24f
techniques 97
multipoint injection 97
one-point injection 97
restricted cervical injection 98
six-point injection 98
split injection 97
treatment of
lower extremities 110
upper extremities 110
disposal of used 132
for injection, early 12
Intercostal artery
posterior 68
superior 65
Intermittent (restricted) drainage, use of 45
large 58, 60, 63
removal of 60
small 63
Inventor of the microscope 14
Investigators in Europe 202
Iodophors 49
Iowa state department of health 163
Irosflorent 13
Isopropyl alcohol 51
Isotope 116, 124
Jackal's head 6f
Jaundice, conquest of 32
Jean-Nicolas Gannal (1791–1852) 17
Jejunal and ileal arteries 70
John Hunter (1728–1793) 16
John Morgan (Circa 1863) 19
Jugular vein
anterior 65
external 65
internal 64, 65, 116
Kidneys, removal of 60
Kodiak archipelago 10
Kodiak Archipelago practiced preservation 10
Laboratories, precautions for 169
Larynx and trachea 58
Larynx, removal of 109
Laundry 171
Lavendula 13
Law and dead 141
Indian practice 141
Western scenerio 141
Legionnaires’ disease 44
Lensed instruments 50
Librium 124
Lifespan of less-specialized cells 54t
artery 64
vein 66
Lipolytic action of enzymes 56
Liquid microbicide 49
part of 102
removal of 60
Living from disease 41
Livor mortis 114
Louis Jacques Thenard (1777–1857) 17
Ludwig De Bils (1624–1671) 14
Lung diseases, treatment of 28
Lungs, removal of 60
Lysosomes 56
Macula densa 189f
Maggots 118
event of 118
Magic bullet 120, 123
Mammary artery, internal 65
Mantoux skin test for tuberculosis 43
Marjoran 13
Massage cream to face 110
Materials and methods 186
Matter insoluble in water 61
Matthew Baillie (1761–1823) 16
Maxillary artery 64
Mechanical pump 90
Medical Schools 90
Medicolegal case 135
Medicolegal examination 109
Mediterranean 11
Meningitis 109
Meprobamate 124, 125
Mercurial compounds organic 49
Mesenteric artery
inferior 70, 77
superior 70, 77
Mesenteric vein
inferior 71
superior 71
Metal and materials 35
Methanol 82, 85
Methe 13
Mexico's outstanding anthropologist 10
Microbial contamination, controlling 48t
Micrograft 189f
Military religious campaigns 11
Miltown 124
Mission and high commissions 135
Mobile embalming unit 177
Modern period 21
Moisture, lack of 58
Mood-altering drugs 124
Morticians’ services, precautions for 168
Mortuary services, practitioners of 41
Mourner's room 149
Mouth gags 128
Multi-site injection and drainage 44
Mummies, wrapped 7
Mummification 54, 58, 59
procedure 60
results 60
Mummifier's table 61t
Mummiform coffin 8f
Musca domestica 118
atrophy 125
cell life, end of 56
protein 56
relaxants 84
infection 117
Myosin 56
Myrrh 8, 13
Narcotics 124
Nasal and oral cavities 110
Nasal cavities 57, 107
National Accreditation of Mortuary Schools 32
National Funeral Directors Association 28
National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke 201
National Institutes of Health 41, 201
Natron dimensions 61
Natron salt wrapped in linen 61
Neck, side of 75
Needle injector method 106, 106f
Neutralizing chemotherapeutic agents 125
New technique, discovery of 13
New York State Supreme Court 1
New York University Medical College 22
Niter 17
Nitrate of potash 18
No objection certificate from police 135
North American Indians 10
Nostrils 110, 149
Notifiable diseases 136
Novel ventilated necropsy table 197f
Nucis moschat 13
Nylon thread 104
Obesity 118
Obturator artery 64, 70, 72
Occupational health authorities 185
Occupational health hazard 179
Occupational safety and health administration 41
Oil of cedar 4
Omnium quod sut'ficit 13
Operative antemortem epithelial 40
Ophthalmic artery 64
supplies the eye 64
Opiates 124
Opponents of formalin fluids 34
Oral drugs control 124
Oral-nasal masks 44
Organs, removal of 60
Ormation of alkaline product 55
Orphanages and poorhouses, establishment of 11
Oxygen starvation 53
Pacemaker 118
Paint mixture 86, 118t
composition of 86
Pancreas 58
removal of 60
Pancreaticoduodenal artery inferior 70
Paraffin section of human kidney 189f
Paraformaldehyde powders 153
Paraformaldehyde study in funeral homes 151
Pasteurella 202
Pelvic cavities 46
removal of 109
Penicillins 125
Performance procedures 46
Perfumes 84
Pericardium 57
Peritoneum 57
Personal health considerations 39
Personal hygiene and safety 41
Personal involvement dealing with the embalmer's 39
Peru 9
Petrosal sinus, inferior 66
buffered 91
unbuffered 91
Pharyngeal artery, ascending 64
Pharyngeal vein 66
Phenol 82, 85, 91
compounds 49
derivatives 82
Phenomenon, internal 57
Phenothiazines 124, 125
Phenoxetol 190
Phenoxyethanol 185, 190, 191
Phrenic veins, inferior 71
Physical examination 43
Physicians and anatomists 19
Pituitary gland 109
Plastic apron 129
Plutarch 5
Poisoning by nitrates 55
Poisoning suspected or evident 109
Poisonous chemicals 34
catheters 50
tubing 50
artery 72, 77
fossa 77f
Portal circulation 63
Portal of “host” entry 47
Portal veins 71
Portrait of
Dr Thomas holmes 22f
Henry P Cattell 23f
Jean-Nicolas Gannal of age 4U 18f
Joseph Henry Clarke, founder of Cincinnati College of Embalming 29f
caloricity 55
changes 54, 114, 193
delivery of fetus 57
regurgitation 119
room layout 198f
staining 55, 55t, 57
suggillation for 55
bicarbonate 55
chlorate 55
nitrate 26, 138
Powdered mixture of alum salt 27
Powdered resin 9
Practical containment measures 196
for invasive procedures 167
implementation of recommended 171
consideration criteria for selection of vessel 92
preparations 128
treatment 119
Pregnant workers 132
Preludin 124
artificial means of 1
body in peru 9
natural means of 1
Preservative 81
agents by drugs, inactivation of 122
chemicals 82
concentration of 45
Profunda femoris artery 71
Properties 156
Prophylactic antibodies, administration of 44
Propylene glycol 138
Prosector's wart 201
Protective barrier attire 39
Proteins 120
chemistry of 120
Proteolytic 56
enzymes 122
Protozoan 200
Pseudomonas aeruginosa 190
Public and professional acceptance 26
Public health
areas of 41
guideline 47
for risk embalmer “host” 47t
premise 42
purpose 41
safety 39
Pudendal artery internal 70
circulation 63
trunk 69, 75
veins 70
Pulsating devices 35
Purge 119
Putrefaction 56
and autolysis 54
factors affecting the rate of 58
in water 58
modified 58
Putrefactive changes 57
Pyocyanea infections 190
Pyramids 59
Qebeh-Snewef 6f
general 21
officer 21
Quaternary ammonium
compounds 49
solutions 51
Radial artery 67, 76
Radiation, type of 116t, 124
Radioactive isotopes
effect of 124
used to treat malignancy 116t
Radioisotopes, used to treat malignancies 124t
Receptacle jar 101
Receptacles 7
Rectal artery
middle 70
superior 70
Rectum 149
Red blood cells, hemolysis of 57
Red tagging 40
Renal veins 71
Reserpine 124
Resin 17
Respiration, cessation of 54
infections of viral 41
tract mucosa 180
Reticuloendothelial system 40
Richard Harlan (1796–1843) 18
Richardson's eye process 33
Rigid plastic pipes 177
Rigor mortis 54, 55, 114
time of onset of 56
Ritalin 124
Road side accidents 109
Rodgers’ method of single-entrance 33
Room ventilation 183, 196
Rorismar 13
Royal College of Surgeons 15, 16
tube 101
tubing rubber catheters 50
Rubella vaccination 43
Ryle's tube 128
Sacral artery
lateral 70
median 70
Salvia 13
Sanitation survey 47
Santel 13
Saphenous vein
great 73
small 73
Saponification 58
Saprophytic bacteria 56
Scalpel 101
Scalpel and blades 147f
School of Embalming and Organic Chemistry 29
Scissors 148f
Seconal 124
Sedatives drugs 124, 125
Selected microbicides, activity levels of 49t
Semiopaque cream 133
Septicemia 44
Serum hepatitis 43
Simmons School of Embalming in Syracuse 32
Skin changes in 54
Skin effects on 194
Smooth muscles 55
bicarbonate 61
borate 85
carbonate 61
chloride 18, 61
citrate 85
hypochlorite 51
solution of 131
sulfate 61, 138
Soft-embalmed cadavers
advantages and disadvantages of 139
surgical procedures performed 139
Soil, nature of 1
Soluble wintergreen 85
Somatic death, immediate 54
Sonacide 43, 49
Specimens for anatomical studies, preparation of 177
Spices grossly powdered 13
Spinal cord, removal of 109
Spleen 63
removal of 60
Splenic vein 71
Sporicidin 49
Staphylococci 56, 202
Starves 120
Sterilization 170
Sternocleidomastoid muscle 64
Stimulants drugs 125
Stomach 102
removal of 60
Streptococci 56, 202
Styracis calamita 13
artery 68, 76
vein 66
Sugar of lead 21
Suicides 109
Supplemental chemicals, use of 45
Suprarenal vein, right 71
Suprascapular artery 65
Surgical instruments 147
Syrians 8
Syringes 147f
Systemic failures
asphyxia 53
cases of 109
coma 53
syncope 53
Systemic mycoses 41
Tank (immersion) fluid 86
Tank (immersion) fluid, composition of 86t
Tap water 91
Temporal artery, superficial 64
branches 70
disinfection 42, 43
Tetrabromofluorescein 83
Tetracyclines 125
Thermometers 50
Thomas Joseph Pettigrew 19
Thomas Marshall 19
Thoracic aorta descending 75
Thoracic cavity
aspiration of 103
removal of 109
Thoracic, treatment of 46
Thorazine 124
Threshold limit value 151
cavity 107
cutters 33
Thymi 13
Thymol 85
Thyrocervical trunk 65
Thyroid artery
superior 64
Thyroid gland, removal of 109
Thyroid vein
middle 66
superior 66
Tibial artery
anterior 72, 78
posterior 72, 78
Tissue decomposition, order of 58
firm tissue 58
hard tissue 58
soft tissue 58
Tissues, liquefaction of 57
Tofranil 124
Tolbutamide (orinase) 124
Total volume of arterial 45
Toxic gas 151
Toxicity survey 153
Toxicity to humans 194
Toxoplasma 200
Toxoplasmosis 200
Tranquilizers drugs 124, 125
Translations, differences in 5
Transmission electron micrograph 189f
Tributaries 66
Tripod of life
brain 53
heart 53
lung 53
guides 103f
insertion of 102
Tuberculosis 47
Tuberculosis incidence of 47
Tumor, incidence 182
Turnip watch 118
Ulnar artery 67, 76
Ultrathin section of human liver stained 189f
Ultraviolet light illuminator furnished 35
Umbilical artery 70
Undertaker's manual 28f, 33
Universal blood 131
Universal precautions 167
Universal work precautions 131
Urea 121
Urethral catheters 128
Uric acid 121
Urinary bladder 103
Uterine artery (in female) 70
Vaccination (heptavax B) 43
Vacuum breakers 43
artery (in female) 70
orifice 149
Vagus nerve 64
Valium 124
Vascular system 44
Vehicles 84
Veins 71
Veins of
abdomen 71
body 78
external jugular vein 78
femoral vein 78
great saphenous vein 78
inferior vena cava 78
internal jugular vein 78
left brachiocephalic vein 78
portal vein 79
right brachiocephalic vein 78
small saphenous vein 78
subclavian vein 78
superior vena cava 78
head and neck 65f
lower limb 72
neck 65
thorax 69
and abdomen 69f
upper limb 67
Veins, superficial 65, 67, 72
basilic vein 67
cephalic vein 67
Vena cava, inferior 63, 70, 71, 92, 112
tributaries of 71
Vena cava, superior 69
blood 63
coagula 107
drainage, reasons for 108
Ventilation systems 153, 156, 159, 159t
Vertebral artery 65
Vesical artery inferior 70
choice artery 92
choice in infants and children 92
depth location of 92
exposure of 93
axillary artery and vein 93
basilic vein 93
brachial artery 93
common carotid artery 93
femoral artery and vein 94
internal jugular vein 93
radial artery 94
proximity of heart 92
selection of 107, 114
size of 92
encephalitides 41
upper respiratory infections 47
Viscera of body 79, 80
ascending colon 80
cecum 80
descending colon 80
gallbladder 80
heart 79
kidney 80
liver 80
lungs 79
pancreas 80
spleen 79
stomach 79
trachea 79t
transverse colon 80
Viscera, preservation of 104
Viscera, treatment of 111
Visceral branches
anterior 70
lateral 70
Visceral tributaries 71
Warmth enhances 58
Washing solution 109
Waste materials 121
Water 85
Weight loss 125
Werowance Indian 10
Wescodyne 49
Wetting agents 83
glycerin 83
sodium lauryl sulfate 83
sorbitol 83
William Hunter 15
William J Bunnell 22
William Peter Hohenschuh 31
Women embalmers 32
Wooden anthropoid 8f
Wooden coffin 7f
World War II, end of 35
Zephiran chloride 49, 82
Zinc chloride 21, 26, 27
Chapter Notes

Save Clear

The Origin and History of EmbalmingChapter 1

Edward C Johnson,
Gail R Johnson,
Melissa J Williams
A statement in 1875 by the New York State Supreme Court is still relevant, concise, and conceptually complete.
The decent burial of the dead is a matter in which the public have concern. It is against the Public Health if it does not take place at all and against a proper public sentiment should it not take place with decency.
Winston Churchill stated in his gifted style: “Without a sense of history, no man can understand the problems of our time, the longer you can look back, the further you can look forward—the wider the span, the longer the continuity, the greater is the sense of duty in individual men and women, each contributing their brief life's work to the preservation and progress of the land in which they live, the society of which they are the servants.” *Prom Robert G Mayer. Embalming—History, Theory, and Practice. Appleton and Longe, Connecticut; 1990, with permission.
Esmond R Long, a Medical Historian wrote: “Nothing gives a better perspective of the subject than an appreciation of the steps by which it has reached its present state.” So it is with the subject of embalming. The authors of this chapter trust that this brief exposition of the origin and history of embalming will impart to the reader a sense of the tradition and technical advances achieved over the nearly 5,000 years that the art and science of embalming have been practiced. There is a clear indication that both tradition and new technical advances will continue to be maintained in the future.
Embalming, one of humankind's longest practiced arts, is a means of artificially preserving the dead human body.
Natural Means of Preservation
Embalming has been in vogue since time immemorial without the deliberate intervention of humans.
  • Freezing: By this method, bodies are preserved for centuries in the ice and snow of glaciers or snowcapped mountains.
  • Dry cold: A morgue located on the top of St Bernard Mountain in Switzerland was so constructed to permit free admission of the elements. True mummies were produced as a result of the passage of the cold, dry air current over the corpses.
  • Dry heat: Natural mummies are produced in the extremely dry, warm areas of Egypt, Southwestern America, and Peru.
  • Nature of the soil at the place of interment: There are recorded instances of the discovery of bodies in a good state of preservation after long-term burial in a peat bog, which had a high-tannin content, or in soils strongly impregnated with salts aluminum or copper.
Artificial Means of Preservation
The undermentioned means have been secured by the deliberate action of humans:
  • Simple heat: Simple heat is the means employed to preserve bodies in the Capuchin Monastery near Palermo, on the island of Sicily. The Monastery is connected to a catacomb or underground burial vault composed of four separate chambers. Treatment of the bodies consists of slow drying in an oven that is heated by a mixture of slacked lime. The desiccated bodies, quite shrunken, and light in weight are placed in upright positions along the walls of the catacombs.2
  • Powders: In powder methods, the body is placed on a bed of sawdust mixed with zinc sulfate or other preserving powder.
  • Evisceration and immersion: It was used by the Egyptians and others.
  • Evisceration and drying: It is also known as the Guanche method.
  • Evisceration, local incision, and immersion: It was employed in Europe, particularly in France, during the period AD 650–1830.
  • Simple immersion: In this method, body is immersed in alcohol, brine, or other liquid preservatives).
  • Arterial injection and evisceration: It has been used by the Hunter brothers and others.
  • Cavity injection and immersion: It is also known as method of Gabriel Clauderus.
  • Arterial injection: It is mode of treatment of Gannal, Sucquet, and many others.
  • Arterial injection and cavity treatment: This method is in daily use by all present day embalmers; generally taught in schools and colleges of embalming today.
  • Artificial cold: Here by a system of refrigeration, the body temperature inhibits bacterial activity. It is in use in most hospitals and morgues today).
Embalming originated in Egypt during the period of the first dynasty. It is estimated to have begun about 3200 BC and continued on until AD 650. The motive of Egyptian embalming was religious. According to their belief, the preservation of the human body (intact) was a necessary requirement for resurrection. During this nearly 4000 year period of embalming practice, there obviously existed a number of variations of technique. Egyptian embalming began to decline with the advent of Christianity, as the early Christians rejected the practice, associating embalming with various “Pagan religious rites”. When the Arabs conquered Egypt, they, too, rejected the practice of embalming.
The second period of embalming history extends from AD 650 to AD 1861 and its principal geographical area of practice and growth was Europe. This era is termed as the period of the Anatomists, as the motive was to advance the development of embalming techniques—for the preservation of the dead to permit detailed anatomical dissection and study.
The third or modem period of embalming history extends from 1861 to the present day. It is during this period that embalming knowledge, which had been transferring from Europe to America during the previous period, finally reverted to its original use principally for funeral purposes. Embalming again became available to all who requested it. Motives in this period are diverse, with sentiment probably predominant, as the average person desires to view the decedent free of evidence of the ravages of disease or injury. Public transportation is another reason to embalm, as the procedure prevents a dead body from becoming offensive during a protracted period of travel and is required by many public transport agencies.
While the value of embalming to the public health is disputed and debated, it is most apparent that a decaying, unembalmed body is surely a health menace to those exposed to its effluvia. From earliest Egyptian times, embalmers have been closely associated with the medical profession. In fact, most embalmers in the United States were doctors of medicine until the later portion of the 19th century.
The incentive for embalming in the period AD 650–1861 was the preservation of anatomical material to further the study of and research in anatomy. Those who made the early strides in embalming were the anatomists, but about the time of JN Gannal (early 19th century, France) and Thomas H Holmes (late-19th century, United States), general public interest was aroused in the preservation of the dead. This interest and the later demand for preservation for funeral purposes of all human dead grew far beyond the means and desires of the few trained embalmers in the medical profession—during the late-19th century in the United States, schools of embalming instruction were established by experienced embalmers. Many funeral directors who had no knowledge of embalming attended these schools to acquire the art. Others who were neither funeral directors nor doctors attended the schools to study embalming and to seek employment. By the beginning of the 20th century in the United States, separation of the fields of embalming and medicine was complete—this brought about the advancement of both professions, particularly that of embalming, as it placed a complex art in the hands of specialists who are still striving to acquire more knowledge and skill in preserving the human dead.
How, then, and why did the practice of embalming develop?3
During the early predynastic period, well before 3200 BC, the Egyptians had a very simple culture. When death occurred, the unembalmed body was placed in the fetal position (arms and legs folded), wrapped in cloth or straw mats, and placed in a shallow grave scooped out of the desert sand west of the Nile River. A few pieces of pottery and other artifacts were placed in the grave with the body, which was positioned on its side. The body was then covered with the sand and the grave filled. The body was preserved by drying from the contact with the arid, porous sand, and the total absence of rainfall or other moisture. From time to time, desert winds uncovered the bodies in their shallow graves, and cemetery guards or relatives saw that the bodies were indeed preserved (Fig. 1.1).
As Egyptian civilization grew, towns and villages sprang up and commerce and industry created a substantial middle and upper class of landlords and other well-to-do persons, as well as a supreme class of tribal and area rulers. When members of this group died, the old practice of simple burial in the desert sands no longer sufficed. Graves were dug deeper and were lined with wooden boards or with stone slabs, so that the body still in the fetal position, remained untouched by the sand. With these, more prosperous or noble individuals were buried more valuable artifacts such as jewelry and furniture.
Then, as now, there existed members of society who were criminals, and some devoted themselves to grave robbing. When the cemetery custodians or family survivors of such elaborate burials noted the opening and desecration of burials, they also noted and were appalled that the corpse was no longer preserved, but had begun to decay. One attempt to forestall decomposition was the enclosure of the body within a solid stone coffin cut from a single mass of stone. The body of the coffin was without seams and the cover fit tightly. These burials were subsequently plundered and again the custodians or relatives contemplated the remains which, to their horror, had on many occasion completely decomposed to a skeletal status. Without a scientific knowledge of the process of putrefaction, they expressed the belief that the stone coffins are the soft tissues. To this day, massive bronze and copper caskets are termed Sarcophagi from the Greek “sarco” (flesh) and “phagus” (eater). The Egyptians, not wishing to revert to their simple burial in the stands method, found it necessary to devise some system of preserving the human body embalming.
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Fig. 1.1: Predynastic (3200 BC) Egyptian burial site, west of the Nile. The unembalmed corpse is in the fetal position, wrapped in straw matting.Courtesy: The Royal Ontario Museum.
It is not too difficult to understand that how Egyptian embalming was first developed with it is kept in mind that Egypt has a basically warm climate. The culture was such that hunting and fishing provided some of the food requirements. Thus, a hunter or fisherman might have a successful catch and secure more birds, fish, or game than he or his family could consume immediately. Such animals, fish, or birds could like the human body, quickly decay, and become worthless for food. The hunter, however, knew how to prepare his catch and to preserve it. He eviscerated and bled his catch and by one or another method such as salting, sun drying, smoking, or cooking preserved it for future consumption. (This procedure for the preservation of food was common knowledge and it requires little imagination to recognize the ease with which the basic food preservation process could be adapted with refinements to the preservation of the dead human body).
Variation in Embalming Methods
The actual methods of embalming employed by the Egyptians varied from dynasty to dynasty according to custom and to the technique of the individual embalmer. History provides views of four contemporary writers on the subject who have frequently been quoted.
The earliest account is that of the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived about 484 BC.
There are certain individuals appointed for the purpose (the embalming), and who profess the art; these persons, when anybody is brought to them, show the bearers some wooden models of corpses; the most perfect they assert to 4be the representation of him whose name I take it impious to mention in this matter; they show a second, which is inferior to the first and cheaper; and a third, which is cheapest of all. They then ask according to which of the models they will have the deceased prepared; having settled upon the price, the relations immediately depart, and the embalmers, remaining at home, thus proceed to perform the embalming in the most costly manner.
In the first place, with a crooked piece of iron, they pull out the brain by the nostrils; a part of it they extract in this manner, the rest by means of pouring in certain drugs; in the next place, after making an incision in the flank with a sharp Ethiopian stone, they empty the whole of the inside; and after cleaning the cavity, and rinsing it wilt) palm wine, scour it out with pounded aromatics. Then, having filled the belly with pure myrrh pounded, and cinnamon, and all other perfumes, frankincense excepted, they sew it up again; having so done, they “steep” the body in natrum, keeping it covered for 70 days, for it is not lawful to leave the body any longer.
When the 70 days are gone by, they first wash the corpse and then wrap up the whole body in bandages cut out of cotton cloth, which they smear with gum, a substance the Egyptians use instead of paste. The relations, having then received back the body, get a wooden case in the shape of a man to be made; and when completed, they place the body in the inside and then, shutting it up, keep it in a sepulchral repository where they stand it upright against the wall. The above is the most costly manner in which they prepare the dead.
For such who choose the middle mode, from a desire of avoiding expense, they prepare the body as follows; they first fill syringes with oil of Cedar to inject into the belly of the deceased, without making any incision, or emptying the inside, but by sending it in by the anus. This they then cork, to hinder the injection from it, wing backwards and lay the body in salt for the specified number of days, on the last of which they release what they had previously injected, and such is the strength it possesses that it brings away with it the bowels and insides in a state of dissolution; on the other hand, the natrum dissolves the flesh so that, in fact, there remains nothing but the skin and bones. When they have done this, they give the body back without any further operation upon it.
The third mode of embalming, which is used for such as have but scanty means, is as follows; after washing the insides with syrmas, they salt the body for the 70 days and return it to be taken back.
The second writer is Diodorus Siculus who lived about 45 BC.
When anyone among the Egyptians dies, all his relations and friends putting dirt upon their heads, go lamenting about the city, till such time as the body shall be buried. In the mean time, they abstain from baths and wine, and all kinds of delicate meats, neither do they during that time wear any costly apparel. The manner of their burials is threefold—one very costly, a second sort less chargeable, and a third very mean. In the first, they say, there is spent a talent of silver ($1,200); in the second 20 minae ($300); but in the last third is very little expense ($75). Those who have the care of ordering the body are such as have been taught that art by their ancestors. These, showing to the kindred of the deceased a bill of each kind of burial, ask them after which manner they will have the body prepared. When they have agreed upon the matter, they deliver the body to such as are usually appointed for this office. First, he who has the name scribe marks about the flank of the left side how much is to be cut away. Then he who is called the cutter or dissector, with an Ethiopian stone, cuts away as much of the flesh as the law commands, and presently runs away as fast as he can. Those who are present pursue him, cast stones at him, curse him, and thereby turning all the execrations, which they imagine due to his office upon him.
For whosoever offers violence, wounds, or does any kind of injury to a body of the same nature with himself, they think him worthy of hatred; but those who are called embalmers are worthy of honor and respect; for they are familiar with their priests and go into the temples, as holy men without any prohibition. So soon as they come to embalm the dissected body, one of them thrusts his hand through the wound into the abdomen and draws out all the viscera but the heart and kidneys, which another washes and cleanses with wine made of palms and aromatic odors.
Lastly having washed the body, they anoint it with oil of Cedar and other things for 30 days, and afterwards with myrrh, cinnamon, and other such like matters, which have not only a powder to preserve it for a long time, but also give it a sweet smell; afterwards, they deliver it to the kindred in such manner that every member remains whole and tire, and no part of it changed. The beauty and shape of the face seems just as it was before, and may be known, even the hairs of the eyebrows and eyelids remaining as they were at first. By this method, many of the Egyptians, keeping the dead bodies’ of their ancestors in magnificent houses, so perfectly see the true visage and countenance of those that died many ages before they themselves were born that 5in viewing the proportions of every one of them, and the lineaments of their faces, they take as much delight as if they were still living among them.
The third account is given by Plutarch who lived between AD 50 and 100.
The belly being opened, the bowels were removed and cast into the River Nile and the body exposed to the sun. The cavities of the chest and belly were then filled with the unguents and odorous substances.
The fourth description is by Perphry who lived about AD 230 to 300.
When those who have care of the dead proceed to embalm the body of any person of respectable rank, they first take out the contents of the belly and place them in a separate vessel, addressing the sun, and utter on behalf of the deceased the following prayer, which Euphantus has translated from the original language into Greek—“O thou sun, our lord, and all ye gods who are the givers of life to men, accept me, and receive me into the mansions of the eternal gods; for I have worshipped piously, while I have lived in this world, those divinities whom my parents taught me to adore. I have ever honored those parents who gave origin to my body; and of other men I have neither killed any, nor robbed them of their treasure, nor inflicted upon them any grievous evil; but if I have done anything injurious to my soul either by eating or drinking anything unlawfully, this offense has not been committed by me, but by what is contained in this chest.” This refers to the intestines in the vessel, which is then cast into the River Nile. The body is afterwards regarded as pure, this apology having been made for its offenses, and the embalmer prepares it according to the appointed rites.
Differences in Translations
As may be observed, there were differences in embalming methods as described by the foregoing writers. This may be, in part, due to inaccuracies in copying and translating of the original manuscripts. Egyptologists generally dismiss the accounts of Plutarch and Porphyry as unreliable because the intestines either were removed or placed in containers that were kept near the body or were replaced in the body. As to the accounts of Herodotus and Diodorus, they were given the seal of approval for their general verity. However, scientific proof is lacking with regard to the corrosiveness of oil of Cedar, and it is believed that the covering of the corpse with natron took place before the filling of the trunk cavities with the spices and other substances.
Present-day translations of the Book of the Dead, a textbook guide for the Egyptian embalmer, do not agree on the 70-day period for the covering with natron. One of the chronologies of the most costly method states that the 1st–16th days were occupied with evisceration, washing, and cleansing of the body; from the 16th to the 36th days, the body was kept under natron; from the 36th to the 68th days, the spicing and bandaging took place; and from the 68th to the 70th days, the body was coffined.
Steps in Egyptian Preparation
Step 1: Removal of the Brain
The brain was generally removed by introducing a metal hook or spoon into the nostril and by forcing it through the ethmoid bone to the brain. As much as possible was scooped out in this way. In some mummies, the brain was not removed. A few craniums had the rain removed through the eye socket. There is one case on record in which the evacuation of the cranium was accomplished through the foramen magnum, after excision of the atlas vertebra. After the body was removed from under natron, the cranium was usually repacked with linen bandages soaked in resin or bitumen. One writer tells of removing 27 feet of 3-inch linen bandage from the cranium of a mummy. Sometimes, the cranium was filled with resin believed to have been introduced while molten with the aid of a funnel.
Step 2: Evisceration
Many bodies were not eviscerated. The earliest incision was made vertically in the left side, extending from the lower margin of the ribs to the anterior superior spine (crest) of the ilium. This incision would measure between 5 inches and 6 inches in length. At a later period, the incision became oblique, extending from a point near the left anterior spine (crest) of the ilium toward the pubes. A variant incision extended vertically from the symphysis pubis toward the umbilicus. In the very late 26th dynasty (665–527 BC), some bodies were eviscerated through the anus. The incision was usually made with a flint knife called Ethiopian stone because of its black color. All the viscera, with the exception of the kidneys and usually the heart, was removed, washed, and immersed in palm wine or packed in natron. (“Their disposition will be referred to later.”)6
Step 3: Covering with Natron
Natron is a salt obtained from the dry lakes of the desert and is composed of the chloride carbonate, and sulfate of sodium and the nitrate of potassium and sodium. Because of the corrosive action on the body, the embalmers had to affix the toe and fingernails to the body during the macerating period. This was accomplished by tying the nails on with thread or copper or gold wire. Alternatively, metal thimbles were fit over the ends of the fingers and toes for the same purpose. The body was then ready for the natron treatment. Early Egyptologists believed that the bodies were placed in a solution composed of natron dissolved in water, as described by Herodotus. Present-day authorities, in studying the original writing of Herodotus and other prime sources, detect a flaw in the translation of the text that is responsible for the misrepresentation. Present-day research, where the embalming process was recreated, indicates conclusively that only application of the concentrated dry salt over the body to some depth could dehydrate and preserve it. Experiments with different, concentrations of the natron solution, and immersion of specimens therein were largely unsuccessful in preventing decay.
Step 4: Removal from Natron
At the end of the 20th day of immersion in natron, the body was washed with water and dried in the sun.
Step 5: Wrapping and Spicing
The body was coated within and without by resin or a mixture of resin and fat. The skull was treated as in Step 1. The viscera, when removed from the body and not returned to the body, were placed in four canopic jars, the tops of which were surmounted by the images of the four children of Horus. Each jar held a specific portion of the. The jar topped with the human head represented Imset, and this jar contained the liver. The jar covered with the jackal's head represented Duamutef and contained the stomach. The jar topped with the ape's head represented Hapy and held the lungs. The fourth jar, surmounted by a hawk's head, represented Qebeh-Snewef and contained the intestines. No mention is made of the disposition of the spleen, pancreas, or pelvic organs (Fig. 1.2).
The canopic jars varied in size and material. They were from about 9 inches to 18 inches in height, and 4 inches in diameter, and were made of alabaster, limestone, basalt, clay, and other materials. The Canopic jars were usually placed in a wooden box and kept near the body. When the vera were placed in these jars, images in miniature of the jars were returned to the cavity, which was padded in straw, resin-soaked linen bandages, or lichen moss. Upon return to the body cavity, the viscera were usually wrapped in four separate parcels to which were attached specific images, as mentioned above. Originally, the incision was not sewn but merely had the edges drawn together. Sometimes, the edges were stuck together by resin or wax; however, there are recorded instances in the 18th, 20th, and 21st dynasties (1700 BC, 1250 BC, and 1000 BC) of closure affected by sewing that closely resembles the familiar embalmer's stitch of today. The incision was covered, whether sewn or not, by a plate of wax or metal upon which was engraved the eye of Osiris (Egyptian god of the dead).
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Fig. 1.2: Canopic urns—containers of the viscera removed during embalming preparation and not returned to trunk of body. From left to right are the Jackal's head. Duamutef (contained stomach), the human head, Imset (contained liver), the ape's head, Happy (contained lungs), and the hawk's head, Qebeh-Snewef (contained intestines).Courtesy: Paula Johnson De Smet.
Ancient Restorative Art
It was during this part of the preparation in the 20th dynasty (1288–1100 BC) that a little known process was performed. Most present clay embalmers feel that the restoration to normal of emaciated facial features of corpse is of comparatively recent origin. On the contrary, the Egyptian embalmers performed this operation, but on a much more extensive scale. Not only were the facial features restored, but the entire bodily contours were subcutaneously padded to regain their normal shape. The methods and materials used varied.
The mouth was usually internally packed with sawdust to pad out the cheeks, while the eyelids were stuffed with 7linen pads. Then working from the original abdominal incision by burrowing under the skin of the trunk in all directions, the packing material was forced into these channels. In places, such as the back and arms, that could not be reached from the original incision, additional local incisions were made through which to pass the padding material. In later periods, the cheeks and temples were padded with resin introduced through openings in front of the ears. This material, introduced while warm, could be molded to conform to the desired contour. The packing materials most commonly used were resin, linen bandages, mud, sand, sawdust, and butter mixed with soda. It was also during this stage of preparation that repair of bodily injuries took place. Broken limbs were splinted, and bed sores were packed with resin-soaked linen bandages and covered with thin strips of antelope hide.
There is a case of a crooked spine having been straightened. Eyes were sometimes replaced with ones of stone or as in one instance, with small onions. The bodies that were to be gilded (covered with gold leaf) were then treated. Some were completely covered with a gold leaf; on others, only the face, fingernails, and toenails, or genitals were gilded, as there was much variation on this matter. After the complete covering of the body with a paste of resin and fat, the bandagers set to work. It is believed that there were individuals who specialized in wrapping certain parts of the body such as the fingers, arms, legs, and head. Each finger or toe was first separately swathed, then each limb. The body was first covered with a kind of tunic and the face covered with a large square bandage followed by the regular spiral bandages. Pads were placed between the bandages to aid in restoration and maintenance of the bodily contour. Lotus blossoms have been found between the layers of linen bandages. Some authorities claim that the living saved cloth all their lives to provide bandages for use as mummy wrappings. The bandages varied from 3 inches to 9 inches in width and up to 1,200 yards in length and were inscribed at intervals with hieroglyphics—indicating the identity of the enswathed person. Authorities believe that only one of ten mummies was prepared by the first method. The others were prepared by the cheaper methods, as described by the earlier writers. Another means of embalming used then was simple covering of the entire body with natron or molten resin. This latter process, while preserving the body, destroyed the hair and most of the facial features, fingers, and toes.
During the last 1000 years of Egyptian embalming practice, the emphasis gradually changed from producing a well-preserved body capable of withstanding decay for all eternity to creating an increasingly elaborate external appearance of the wrapped body. Wrapping patterns became quite elaborate and cartonnage and plaster were employed to present a sometimes fanciful external recreation of the deceased. During the terminal centuries of Egyptian embalming, portraits on a flat surface were painted and placed over the head area, which more faithfully resembled the dead.
The wrapped mummies were usually additionally encased and placed in boxes or coffins. An additional encasement, termed cartonnage, was made of 20 or 30 sheets of linen cloth or papyrus saturated in resin, plaster of Paris, or gum acacia and placed over the wrapped body while wet. To ensure a tight fit, the material was drawn together in the back of the body by a kind of lacing not unlike present-day shoe lacing. The cartonnage, when dry, was as hard as wood and was covered with a thin coating of plaster, then painted with a representation of a human head and other designs. Two or more wood cases of Cedar or sycamore might encase the cartonnage and each other. These coffins or mummy cases were of different shape, depending on the period when they were made. The outer wooden case was, at times, rectangular in shape with a cover resembling the roof of a house. Early coffined embalmed bodies were placed within the coffins lying on their side. The exterior of the coffin contained the representation of a pair of eyes on one side near the head of the coffin (Fig. 1.3). This indicated the position of the body facing outward at this point. Coffins shaped like the human form were termed anthropoid or mummiform (Fig. 1.4). If the deceased was a member of a great family, he might be enclosed within a stone sarcophagus that was a stone coffin or vault fashioned of marble, limestone, granite, or slate.
Even in Egyptian times, the tombs of the dead were plundered for their valuables.
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Fig. 1.3: Wooden coffin. The body placed inside and lies on its left side with the head at the end, where eyes are drawn facing eyes and thus looking outward.Courtesy: Paul Johnson De Smet.
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Fig. 1.4: Wooden anthropoid or mummiform coffin.Courtesy: Paula Johnson De Smet.
Many mummy cases were broken open and the mummies themselves were damaged. The embalmers were called upon to repair the damaged mummies and to rewrap and recoffin them. This may explain, in part, the so-called faking of mummies. In the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, there are numerous X-ray pictures of unopened mummy cases and unwrapped mummies. Some of these pictures show damage that might have occurred prior to or during the course of embalming. One X-ray photo of a young child displays the complete absence of the anns and bilateral fractures of the femurs at about their midpoint, with the lower broken portion entirely missing. Museum authorities advance the theory that this was done to fit the child into a smaller mummy case. Another X-ray photo reveals a wrapped mummy lacking arms and the trunk of the body. The head was connected to the legs by a board and the body had been represented by padding of straw or lichen moss.
Additional faking may be the result of a curious custom of the early middle ages of using bits of mummies as good luck pieces and as a drug for internal consumption. This demand created a brisk business for the Arabs of North Africa, and as the supply of natural mummies was difficult to maintain, the Arabs began to produce their own from the bodies of the lepers and criminal dead.
Animals were also embalmed, wrapped, and coffined in a manner similar to humans. The variety of animals so treated was large and included baboons, monkeys, full-grown bulls, gazelles, goats, sheep, antelopes, crocodiles, cats, dogs, mice, rats, shrews, hawks, geese, ibis, snakes, and lizards. X-ray examination of these wrapped packages discloses an occasional falsity. Some of these false mummies are composed of straw or rags wrapped in the form of the animals they were to represent. G Elliot Smith, in his article on the Significance of Geographical Distribution of Practice of Mummification, states that knowledge of the Egyptian method of embalming was carried westward as far as the Canary Islands. He bases his decision on the similarity of the embalming procedures carried on in these areas of the world and the knowledge that the Egyptian method preceded those in all other known parts of the world.
The Jews did not embalm but simply washed and shaved the body and swathed it in sheets between the folds of which were placed spices such as myrrh and aloes. The purpose of herbs and spices was to disguise the odor of decay of the body, not to preserve it.
Ancient Persians, Syrians, and Babylonians
Sometimes, the ancient Persians, Syrian, and Babylonians immersed their human dead in jars of honey or wax. Alexander the Great was said to have been so treated to preserve his body during the long journey from the place of death in Babylon in 323 BC (during a military campaign) to Egypt.
Ancient Ethiopians
The ancient Ethiopians eviscerated and desiccated their dead in a manner similar to the Egyptian method. The bodily contours were restored by applying plaster over the shrunken skin. The plaster-covered corpse was then painted with lifelike colors and given a coating of clear resin-like substance believed by some authorities to be a fossil salt and by others to be a type of amber, somehow rendered fluid at the time of application.
Canary Islands (from at least 900 BC)
In the Atlantic Ocean, about 4° South of the Madeira Islands, on the northwest coast of Africa, there is a cluster of 913 islands known as the Canary Island. These islands were not subdued by any European nation until the Spaniards overran them in the late 15th century. The original inhabitants, known as Guanches, are thought to have been descendants of the lost continent of Atlantis. It is believed that only prominent and influential families had the dead embalmed. The Guanches’ method of embalming their dead is very similar to the Egyptian method.
The Guanche embalmers were both men and women who performed the services for their own sex. These embalmers were well paid, although their touch was considered contaminating and they lived in seclusion in remote parts of the islands. Upon the death of a person, the family bore the body to the embalmers and then retired. The embalmers placed the body upon a stone table and an opening was made in the lower abdomen with a flint knife called Tabona. The intestines were withdrawn, washed, cleaned, and later returned to the body. The entire body, inside and outside, was very thoroughly saturated with salt and the intestines were returned to th.e body along with numerous aromatic plants and herbs.
The body anointed with butter, powdered resin, brushwood, and pumice was exposed to the sun, or, if the sun was not hot enough, the body was placed in a stove to dry. During the drying period, the body was maintained in an extended position; the arms of men were placed along the sides of the body, while women's arms were placed across the abdomen.
The embalmers maintained a constant vigil over the body during the period to prevent it from being developed by vultures. On the 15th or 16th day, the drying process should be completed and the relatives would claim the body and sew it in goatskins. Kings and nobles were, in addition, placed in coffins of hollowed juniper logs. All bodies were deposited in caves in the hilly regions of the islands.
In another method of preparation described, a corrosive liquid believed to be juice of the spurge or euphorbia plant, was either introduced through the belly wall or poured down the throat; this was followed by the drying process described above. The mummies produced by these processes were called Xaxos and the method of embalming was believed to have been introduced from Egypt about 900 BC. In TJ Pettigrew's History of Egyptian Mummies, there is a description of a Xaxos as found by a sea captain in 1764. The author points out the “flesh of the body is perfectly preserved, but is dry, inflexible, and hard as wood not is any part decayed. The body is no more shrunk than if the person had been dead only 2 or 3 days. Only, the skin appears a little shriveled and of a deeply tanned; copper color”. The Xaxos were extremely light in weight, averaging about 6–9 pounds for bodies up to 5½ feet in length.
Preservation of the body in Peru was practiced for at least a thousand years before the Spanish conquest in the early 16th century. It had for its motive a religious belief in the resurrection of the body. Most authorities agree that the Peruvians had no process of embalming, but—that their mummies were a product of the extremely dry climate of the region. There are reports that the Incas or ruling classes were embalmed, and because only mummies of the common people have been discovered, this report may be true. The manner in which the Inca rulers are believed to have been prepared was by evisceration. The intestines were placed in gold vases, the cavity filled with an unspecified resin, and the body coated with bitumen. The bodies were said to have been seated upon their thrones, clothed in their regal robes, hands clasped upon the breast, and head inclined downward. There is mention of the use of gold to plate or replace the eyes.
The usual Peruvian mummy, of which there are many specimens in the Field Museum at Chicago, was often found buried with the face toward the west, together with provisions of corn and coca contained in earthen jars. The mummies themselves were wrapped in cloth and tied with a coarse rope. The outer covering was of matting and followed a roll of cotton which, in turn, enveloped a red or varied-color wool cloth wrapped about the body. The innermost wrapping was white cotton sheet. The corpse was found in a squatting position, knees under chin, arm over breast, with the fists touching the jaws. The hands were usually fastened together, and on most mummies there was a rope passed three or four times around the neck. In the mouth, there was usually a small copper, silver, or gold disk. The greater part of the mummies was well preserved, but the flesh was shriveled and the features were disfigured. The hair was preserved with the women's hair braided. Nearly all types of animals and birds have been found mummified including parrots, dogs, cats, doves, hawks, heron, ducks, and llamas; vicunas and llamas wrapped in the manner of human mummies.
The Jivaro Indians of the Marano River region of South America had a method of preserving heads by shrinking 10them. Technically, this process does not come under the heading of embalming, but a brief general description of the process is of interest.
The bones of the skull were first removed through long slits in the scalp. The skin of the head, with the hair attached, was boiled in water containing astringent herbs. Upon completion of this process, hot stones of gradually diminishing size were inserted into the space formerly occupied by the skull bones. When the shrinking process was completed, the stones were removed and the incisions were sutured as were the mouth and the eyes. The finished shrunken head is about the size of a man's fist, with the features rather clear and retaining their proper proportions. It has been stated that this same process has been applied to an entire human body with equal success, although no such specimens have been found.
Mexico and Central America-Aztecs, To/tees, and Mayans
Upon Ute basis of information received from Dr Alfonso Caso, Mexico's outstanding anthropologist, there is no evidence of the employment of any artificial means of preservation of the body in the pre-Spanish era in these regions. There are accounts of finding mummies wrapped in matting and buried in the earth or in caves, but it is the opinion of Dr Caso and others that such mummification was the result of the natural climate of the region.
North American Indians
Although no proof exists to substantiate claims that some of the Indian tribes embalmed their dead, there are quotes from two accounts of embalming means recounted by Dr HC Yarrow in his Study of Mortuary Customs of North American Indians from 1880, collected from earlier publications. On page 185 of the History of Virginia (by Beverly, 1722), the below statement is found:
The Indians are religious in preserving the corpses of their kings and rulers after death. First they neatly flay off the skin as entire as they can, slitting only the back; then they pick all the flesh off the bones as clean as possible, leaving the sinews fastened to the bones, that they may preserve the joints together. Then they dry the bones in the sun and put them into the skin again, which in the meantime has been kept from shrinking. When the bones are placed right in the skin, the attendants nicely fill up the vacuities with very fine white sand. After this, they sew up the skin again, and the body looks as if the flesh had not been removed, they take care to keep the skin from shrinking by the help of a little oil or grease, which saves it from corruption. The skin being thus prepared, they lay it in an apartment for that purpose, upon a large shelf raised above the floor. This shelf is spread with mats for the corpse to rest easy on, and screened with the same to keep it from the dust. The flesh they lay upon hurdles in the sun to dry, and when it is thoroughly dried, it is sewed up in a basket and set at the feet of the corpse, to which it belongs.
Another account appeared on page 39, volume XIII of Collection of Voyages (Pinkerton, 1812), concerning the Werowance Indians.
Werowance Indian
Their bodies are first bowelled, then dried upon hurdles till they become very dry, an so about most of their joints and neck they hang bracelets or chains of copper, pearl, and such like, as they are used to wear. Their innards they stuff with copper beads, hatchets, and such trash. Then they lap them very carefully in white skins and so roll them in mats for their winding sheets.
The Indians are known to have wrapped their dead in cloth or leather and to have suspended the bodies in a horizontal manner in trees or buried them in the earth, in caves, or in the ground covered by rocks. This may have had a religious significance, but more likely it was done to prevent vultures or animals from devouring the dead.
Aleutian Islands and Kodiak Archipelago
It is believed that the inhabitants of Aleutian Islands and Kodiak Archipelago practiced preservation of their dead from at least AD 1000, although the custom did not prevail on the mainland. The internal organs were removed through an incision in the pelvic region and the cavity was refilled with dry grass. The body was placed in a stream of cold running water, which was said to have removed the fatty tissues in a short time. The corpse was removed from the water and wrapped in the fetal posture, knees under the chin, and arms compressed about the legs. This position was accomplished by use of force, breaking bones, if necessary. In this posture, the body was sun dried and, as a final gesture, was wrapped in animal skins and matting.11
With the Arabic conquest of Egypt and the fall of the Roman Empire, European and Mediterranean civilizations declined virtually to the vanishing point. The old world of law and order as the Romans and others knew it was replaced by anarchy. Geographical areas were ruled by bands of arm men with little stability of control. These Dark Ages were to continue until the year 1000 when a gradual elimination of unstable leaders left a few more wise and capable individuals in charge of substantial geographical divisions of Europe. With a return to a more normal civilized existence came the establishment of schools and colleges in what is today Sicily, Italy, France, and England and later in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland. The schools were, in part, the product of the Catholic Church, which throughout the Dark Ages had maintained and served as a sanctuary for work in the fields of medicine, nursing, teaching, copying of manuscripts, and establishment of orphanages and poorhouses.
The medical schools that were established used some texts originally written during the glory era of Egypt. In Alexandria, on the Mediterranean at the mouth of Nile, there existed the greatest center for teaching that history had known. The library, before its destruction, was said to have contained more than half a million manuscripts on subjects varying from astronomy to mathematics to engineering to medicine. It was here that a famous teacher and practitioner of medicine, Claudius Galen (130-200 AD) born in Pergamum, Asia Minor, taught and wrote on the subject of anatomy. His textbook on anatomy described human anatomy principally from dissections of animals such as the pig or monkey. It must be obvious today that there are substantial differences or variations between the anatomical structure of the pig or monkey and that of the human being. Galen and others were not encouraged to dissect the human body as it was considered a mutilation and a crime under Egyptian law. Nevertheless, Galen's teachings and writings on human anatomy were to be considered as the unchallengeable authority for the next 1,000–1,200 years.
With the emergence of Europe from the Dark Ages came a craving for learning that had to that time been suppressed. The medical schools lacked the authority to legally acquire dead human bodies for dissection and anatomical study until 13th and early 14th centuries. Such authority was granted 1242 by Frederick II, King of the two Sicilies, and again in 1302 for the delivery of two executed criminals to the medical school at Bologna, Italy, each year for dissection. Such dissections were public affairs, often conducted in open areas or amphitheaters always during the cold months of the year as the dissection subjects were not preserved. The dissection itself was rapid, frequency confined to a 4-day period. In the actual procedure, the anatomy professor, who was seated, read from Galen's text on anatomy while pointing out (with a wand) the body structures mentioned by Galen. An assistant, a Barber-Surgeon, did the actual dissection as the lecture progressed. Obviously, there were frequent contradictions between Galen's description of a body part and its actual appearance as disclosed by the dissection. These most evident discrepancies encouraged the more intelligent student and medical practitioner to steal bodies from cemeteries and gallows for personal study and research. Every part of such a purloined cadaver was probed speedily for knowledge of its structure or function until it became too loathsome to conceal and had to be disposed of. In many cases, the soft tissues were thrown away and the bones boiled to secure the skeleton.
Military Religious Campaigns
During the period from 1095 to 1291, a series of military religious campaigns mounted by the Christian nations of Europe (termed Crusades) were conducted to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims. The campaigns were successful early on, but with the passage of time, the Christian occupation forces in Holy Land became complacent and less martial and eventually—were expelled from the entire conquered territory. Many prominent members of the nobility, including King Louis XIX of France, died far from home during the crusades. To allow the return to their homeland of their remains, it was necessary to develop what became a gruesome procedure, as no certain means of embalming was available during the campaigns. The procedure consisted of disemboweling and disarticulating the body, cutting off all soft tissue and then boiling the bones until they were free of all soft tissues. The bones were then dried and wrapped within bull hides and returned to their homeland by the couriers who maintained the communication lines.
In 1300, Pops Boniface VIII issued a Papal Bull (a directive) that prohibited the cutting up of the dead for the purpose of transport and burial under penalty of excommunication. For a brief period, this Papal Bull was 12interpreted by some members of the medical profession to ban anatomical dissection. For example, in 1345, Vigevano stated that dissection was prohibited, and Mondino (1270–1326) said sin was involved in boiling bones. In any case, such interpretations were rare and were seldom given any regard by the majority of anatomists.
As the years passed, it became obvious that some system of preservation, even temporary, had to be contrived to permit a more careful and intensive study of body structure. Early efforts at preservation followed the ancient regimen of drying the parts, for moisture was and is the enemy of preservation. Preservation by drying of cadavers or their components was first sought by exposure to the natural heat of the sun. Later, use of controlled heat in ovens was employed to accomplish desiccation. Eventually, while probing the nature and extent of the hollow blood vessels, it was noted that warm air forced through the blood vessels removed blood and eventually dried out the tissue.
Reports of preservation attempts from the 15th century did not include injections of the blood vascular system. Such early injections into hollow structures of the body were made to trace the direction and continuity of blood vessels, or to inflate hollow organs so as to reveal their size and shape or to make internal castings of areas under study. As early as 1326, Alessandra Giliani of Italy injected blood vessels with colored solutions that hardened; Jacobus Berehgarius (1470–1550) employed as yr4lge and injected veins with warm water; Bartolomeo Eustaschio (1520–1574) used warm ink; Regnier De Graaf (1641–1673) invented a syringe and injected mercury; Jan Swammerdam (1637–1680) injected a wax-like material that later hardened—the great artist Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519), who is said to have dissected more than 30 corpses to produce hundreds of accurate anatomical illustrations, injected wax to secure castings of the ventricles of the brain and other internal areas.
Early Instruments for Injection
Early instruments for injection were crude and usually made in two parts—a container for the injection material and some form of cannula. The cannula was often contrived from a hollow straw, feather quill, hollow metal, or glass tube, which was attached by ligature to an animal bladder (stomach, or other intestine). The cannula was inserted into the hollow opening being studied and the bladder tied onto its free end. The bladder, in turn, was filled with a liquid and then tied to retain the bladder full. Entrance of the liquid material into the hollow area was secured by squeezing the bladder until it emptied.
As early as 1521, Berengarius wrote of using a forerunner of the modern syringe. Early syringes similar to the hypodermic syringes employed today were constructed. They were filled and then attached to a cannula in position within the opening to be injected. To refill the syringe, the operator had to detach the syringe from the cannula, refill it, and then reattach it. Bartholin (1585–1629) developed the first continuous flow syringe. It could be recharged during use without halting the injection process.
During the entire time from the end of the Egyptian embalming activity through the “Dark Ages” and into early medieval period, some members of the elite, clergy nobles, tradesmen, and landowners were embalmed, a procedure ordinarily neither contemplated by nor available to the average European. The embalming procedure, not surprisingly, was virtually identical to the Egyptian technique described by Herodotus and others, with the exception that far less time was consumed in its execution.
One of the best accounts of nonanatomical embalming for burial purposes is related by the Dutch physician Peter Forestus (1522–1597), who wrote about embalming. His account, in German, is contained as an appendix in the 1605 edition of Peter Offenbach's treatise on Wound Surgery. Forestus specifically described the embalming process and the materials used in five named cases between 1410 and 1548, two of which he personally performed:
  • 1410—Pope Alexander V of Bologna, Italy
  • 1511—Lady Johanna of Burgundy, Holland
  • 1537—Bishop Magoluetus of Bologna, Italy
  • 1582—Countess of Haute Kerken of the Hague, Holland
  • 1584—Princess Auractus of Holland.
As these cases are essentially similar, only one embalming report is cited in its entirely.
Most of the above embalmings were performed in the room of the residence where the death occurred, a practice rather commonly followed later (well into the 20th century) in many countries including the United States.
The following is the full description of the Forestus embalming of the Countess of Haute Kerken. The others listed a quite similar with some individual variations such as opening the cranium and removing the brain and making long and deep incisions in the extremities to press out the blood, then filling the incisions with the powdered mixture.
I personally was bidden to embalm the Countess of Haute Kerken, who was a daughter of a nobleman of Egmont 13(Holland) and who died of childbirth on January 9, 1582 in the Hague (Holland) before Johannes Heurnius (1543–1601), my good friend, and professor at Leyden in Holland was asked. Preceding all things, before the embalmment was begun, there was made the following preparation—1 took 2½ lbs aloes; myrrh, l½ lbs; ordinary wermut, seven hands full; rosemary, four hands full, pumice, 1½ lbs; marjoram, 4 lbs; storacis calamata, 2 loht, the zeltlinalipta muscate, ½ loht. Mix all and reduce to a powder. Lay open the trunk of the body remove all the viscera, afterwards take such sponges, which were previously immersed in cold fresh water, afterwards dipped in aqua vita, and wash out the interior of the body by and with the sponge. This having been done, fill the cavities (of the body) with a layer of cotton moistened in aqua vita; sprinkle over it a layer of the previously mentioned powder place another layer of the moistened cotton and a layer of powder one over the other until the abdomen together with the chest is entirely full. Afterwards, see the above (abdominal walls) again together. Wrap around (the body) with waxed cloth and other things. Now having heard this you understand this embalmment was performed by me, the aforementioned Heurnius and Arnold the Surgeon on January 10, 1562, in the dwelling of the wellborn Count and Countess Von—Wassenaer in the Hague.
Ambroise Pare (1510–1590)
Born in France, Ambroise Pare was military Barber Surgeon an eventually surgeon to French Kings Henri II, Francois II, and Charles IX. He was famous for rediscovery and improvement of use of ligature of control bleeding after amputations, podalic version (changing the position of an unborn infant within the uterus) to facilitate delivery, and designing of artificial limbs. Pare, like many surgeons of the period embalmed the bodies of prominent military leaders and noblemen killed during military campaigns as well as similarly prominent civilians dying of natural causes.
In his book The Works of Ambroise Pare, translated into English and published in London in 1634, he devotes a portion of the 28th chapter on the manner how to embalm the dead.
But the body, which is to be embalmed with spices for very long continuance must first of all be embowelled, keeping the heart apart, that it may be embalmed and kept as the kinsfolkes shall think fit. Also the brain, the skull being divided with a saw, shall be taken out. Then you shall make deep incisions along the arms, thighs, legs, back, loins, and buttocks, especially where the greater veins and arteries run, first that by this means the blood may be pressed forth, which otherwise would putrefy and give occasion and beginning to putrefaction to the rest of the body; and then that there may be space to put in the aromatic powder; and then the whole body shall be washed over, with a sponge dipped in aqua vita and strong vinegar, wherein shall be boiled wormewood, aloes, coloquintida, common salt, and alum. Then these incisions, and all the passages and open places of the body and the three bellies shall be stuffed with the following spices grossly powdered. Radix pul rosar, Chamomile, Balsami, Methe, Anethi, Salvia, Lavendula, Rorismar, Marjoran, Thymi, Absinthi, Cyperi, Calami aromat, Gentiana, Irosflorent, Accavederata, Caryophyll, Nucis moschat, Cinamoni, Styracis calamita, Benjoini, Myrrha, Aloes, Santel, Omnium quod sut'ficit. Let the incisions be sowed up and the open spaces that nothing fall out; then forthwith, let the whole body be anointed with turpentine, dissolved oil of roses and chamomile, adding if you shall think it fit, some chemical oil of spices, and then let it be again strewed over with the forementioned powder; then wrap it in a linen cloth, and then in Cesare-clothes. Lastly, let be put in a coffin of lead, sure soudred, and filled up with dry sweet herbs. But, if there be no plenty of the forementioned spices, as it usual happens in besieged towns, the chirurgeon shall be contented with the powder of quenched lime, common ashes made of oak wood.
The procedure described by Pare was the most prevalent in use from the end of the Egyptian system to well past the discovery of arterial injection.
Discovery of a New Technique
Anatomical dissection, nonpreservative injections, and study continued until inevitably the technique of arterial injection of some preservative substance into the blood vascular system to secure an embalmed subject was stumbled upon. Contrary to popular belief, three men, all Dutch and all friends, were involved and must be recognized for their contributions to the technique—Jan Swammerdam (1637–1680), the original inventor or discoverer; Frederik Ruysch (1638–1731) the great practitioner who refined the technique; and Stephen Blanchard (1650–1720), the person who openly publish the method.
Swammerdam was educated in medicine but devoted the greatest part of his life to the study of insects and small animals. He perfect a system of injection to preserve even insects through tiny cannulae made of glass and manipulated by the aid of microscopes designed by Leeuwenhoek 14(the inventor of the microscope). His preservatives were said to have included various forms of alcohol, turpentine, wine, rum, spirits of wine (purer form of alcohol), and colored waxes. This injection technique was transmitted to Ruysch who applied it to human subjects, both entire bodies and portions thereof. His superb collections of anatomical specimens provided great teaching aids. His embalming of complete human remains included individuals such as British Admiral Sir William Berkley, who was killed during a sea battle of Holland in 1666, and whose body, was recovered from the sea in a decomposing condition. Ruysch was requested by the Dutch government to embalm the body “so that it might be returned to England for funeral and burial”. It is said that the body was normal in appearance and color after his treatment.
In another episode, the Russian Czar Peter the Great, during one of his visits to Western Europe, visited the medical school of Leiden, Holland, and Ruysch's home, where his museum was situated. During the visit with Ruysch, it is elated that some domestic problem required Ruysch's attention and he left Czar Peter alone for a few minutes. Czar Peter began to explore the various rooms, and in opening, one door discovered an infant apparently asleep. Tiptoeing into the room, he contemplated the beautiful pink child, then bent down and kissed it, only to discover by its cold exterior lrtat, it was one of Ruysch's many preparations. Czar Peter purchased one entire museum collection from Ruysch, which some historian report was lost or destroyed. The truth is that it is still on exhibit in Leningrad today. Ruysch personally never did make a full disclosure of his technique or preservative. There are many who conjecture that his preservative was alcohol, turpentine, or even arsenic.
Blanchard, an anatomist of Leiden, published a book in 1688 entitled “A New Anatomy with Concise Directions for Dissection of the Human Body with a New Method of Embalming”. Pages 281–287 and several diagrams of syringes and instruments constitute the appendix describing his method of embalming. He mentions the use of spirits of wine and turpentine. In one of his embalming treatments, he began by flushing out the intestinal tract by first forcing water from the mouth to the anus. Then he repeated the flushing with spirits of wine and retained it in place by corking the rectum. He opened large veins and arteries and flushed out the blood with water, then injected the preservative spirits of wine. (This technique described in the book appears to be the earliest mention of injection of the blood vessels for the specific purpose of embalming.)
Ludwig De Bils (1624–1671)
Ludwig De Bils was a Flemish anatomist and resident of Leiden who was also an embalmer. As with Ruysch, he never divulged his embalming methods and is said to have gone to great lengths to prevent accidental discovery of his method by visitors to his museum. Gabriel Clauderus, while viewing De Bils’ specimens, shrewdly moistened his forefinger and applied it to the skin of an embalmed body and, tasting the moistened finger, disclosed a salty flavor, which led Clauderus to suspect that the principal ingredient in De Bils’ fluid was salt. De Bils’ wrote several books on the subject of embalming but failed to disclose his methods.
Gabriel Clauderus (Late 17th Century)
Gabriel Clauderus, a physician from Altenburg, Germany, was contemporary of De Bils. In 1695, he published a book, Methodus Balsamundi Corpora Humani, Alique Majora Sine Evisceratione, in which he described his method of embalming, which omitted evisceration. His fluid was made from 1 pound of ashes of tartar dissolve in 6 pounds of water, to which was added ½ pound of sal ammoniac. After filtration, it was ready for use and was denominated by Clauderus as his “balsamic spirit”. He injected this fluid into the cavities of the body and then immersed the cadaver in the fluid for 6–8 weeks. The treatment was concluded by drying the corpse either in the sun or in a stove.
England's Customs and Achievements
While the British Isles are geographically grouped with Europe, they developed different customs and their scientific achievements advanced at a pace different from that in continental Europe.
Some individuals regard the Company of Barber-Surgeons of London to be the first group licensed to embalm. A brief examination of the background of this organization reveals that from about 1300 to 10, the Company of Barbers and the Guild of Surgeons were separate entities. In 1540, they received a charter form Henry VIII consolidating these two groups under the title of the Company of Barber–Surgeons and granting them the right to anatomize four executed criminals each year. In 1565, Queen Elizabeth I granted the same privilege to the College of Physicians. In 1745, the Surgeons and Barbers ended their joint relationship and again became two separate organizations. During the Barber-Surgeons period they were permitted 15to be the sole agency for embalming and for performing anatomical dissections in the city of London, although there is no record of any of the bodies for anatomy being embalmed.
This was never a well-respected or enforced monopoly. In their 200-year existence, there were fewer than ten complaints, and in several of the cases cited in the College of Barber-Surgeons records, no fine or other punishment is noted. In several cases, no conclusion of the case appears. Most complaints were lodged against members for performing private anatomical dissections not on the premises of the College. The more influential members such as William Cheselden and John Ranby simply ignored the rule and even withdrew from the organization as William Hunter did. (The Barber-Surgeons made no progress in the development of licensing of embalmers as such and even today in the British Isles, no license or permit is needed from any governmental agency to pedon embalming and never has been so required.)
William Hunter
William Hunter (1718–1783) was born in Scotland and studied medicine at the University of Glasgow and at Edinburgh. He finally settled in London where he specialized in the practice of obstetrics and taught anatomy. He became one of the great teacher of anatomy in English medical history and received many awards and appointments to honor societies, climaxed in 1764 by his appointment as Physician-Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte of England. He was the author of many brilliant treatises on medical subjects, perhaps the greatest being his Anatomy of the Gravid Uterus. His private collections of anatomical and pathological specimens, together with his lecture and dissecting rooms, occupied a portion of his home. All of this, plus a large sum of money, were donated to the University of Glasgow after his death.
Hunter was in the habit of delivering, at his private school at the close of the anatomical lectures, an account of the preparation of anatomical specimens and embalming of corpses. He injected the femoral artery with a solution composed of oil of turpentine, to which had been added Venice turpentine; oil of chamomile; and oil of lavender, to which had been added a portion of vermillion dye. This mixture was forced into the body until the s exhibited a red appearance. After a few hours during which the body lay undisturbed, the thoracic and abdominal cavities were opened, the viscera were removed, and the fluid was squeezed out of them. The viscera were separately arterially injected and bathed in camphorated spirits of wine. The body was again injected from the aorta and the cavities were washed with camphorated spirits of wine. The viscera were returned to the body intermixed with a powder composed of camphor, resin, and niter, and placed in the eyes, ears, nostrils, and other cavities. The entire skin surface of the body was then rubbed with the “essential” oils of rosemary and lavender. The body was placed in a box on a bed of plaster of Paris for about 4 years. When the box was reopened, and if desiccation appeared imperfect, a bed of gypsum was added to complete the process.
One of Hunter's admonitions to his students, which is still applicable to attainment of the finest results, was to begin the embalming process within 8 hours of death in the summer and within 24 hours in the winter.
Until the wartime aerial bombing of the Royal College of Surgeons Museum in 1941, the embalmed body of the wife of the eccentric dentist Dr Martin van Butchell, a pupil of William Hunter, was on exhibition. There was a letter in van Butchell's handwriting describing the embalming process. It is reproduced here verbatim:
  • 12-January 1775: At one-half past two this morning my wife died. At eight this morning, the statuary took off her face in plaster. At half past two this afternoon, Mr Cruikshank injected at the crural arteries five pints of oil of turpentine mixed with Venice turpentine and vermillion.
  • 15-January: At nine this morning, Dr Hunter and Mr Cruikshank began to open and embalm my wife. Her diseases were a large empyema in the left lung (which would not receive any air), accompanied with pleuropneumonia and much adhesion. The right lung was also beginning to decay and had some pus in it. The spleen was hard and much contracted; the liver diseased, called rata malpighi. The stomach was very sound. The kidneys, uterus, bladder, and intestines were in good order. Injected at the large arteries oil of turpentine mixed with camphored spirits, i.e. 10 ounces camphor to a quart of spirits, so as to make the whole vascular system turgid, put into the belly part 6 pounds of rosin powder, 3 pounds camphor, and 3 pounds niter powder mixed rec spirit.
  • 17-January: I opened the abdomen to put in the remainder of the powders and added 4 pounds rosin, 3 pounds niter, and 1 pound camphor. In all, there were 10 pounds rosin, 6 pounds niter, and 4 pounds camphor, 20 pounds of powder mixed with spirits of wine.16
  • 18-January: Dr Hunter and Mr Cruikshank came at nine this morning and put my wife into the box on and in 130 pounds of Paris plaster at 18 d. a bag. I put between the thighs three arquebusade bottles, one full of camphor spirits very rich of the gum, containing 8 ounces oil of rosemary, and in the other 2 ounces of lavender.
  • 19-January: I dosed up the joints of the box lid and glasses with plaster of Paris mixed with gum water and spirits of wine.
  • 25-January: Dr Hunter came with Sir Thomas Wynn and his lady.
  • 7-February: Dr Hunter came with Sir John Pringle, Dr Heberden, Dr Watson, and about twelve more fellows of the Royal Society.
  • 11-February: Dr Hunter came with Dr Solander, Dr Mr Banks and another gentleman. I unlocked the glasses to dean the face and legs with spirits of wine and oil of lavender.
  • 12-February: Dr Hunter came to look at the neck and shoulders.
  • 13-February: I put 4 ounces of camphor spirits into the box and on both sides of neck and 6 pounds of plaster.
  • 16-February: I put 4 ounces oil of lavender, an ounce of rosemary and ½ ounce of oil of chamomile flowers (the last cost four Sh.) on sides of the face and 3 ounces of very dry chamomile flowers on the breast, beck, and shoulders.
  • (The body was said to resemble a Guanche or Peruvian mummy and was very dry and shrunken.)
John Hunter
John Hunter (1728–1793) was born in Scotland, the younger brother of William Hunter, in whose anatomy classes he first proved so adept. After studying under the pat surgeons of his time, he was appointed to hospital staffs and lectured on anatomy. A region of the body, he described was named in his honor—“Hunter's canal”. He served as a surgeon in the British army during the campaign in Portugal (1761–1763) and; upon his discharge from the service, settled in general practice in London. There he continued the collection and study of anatomical and natural subjects. He was the most brilliant and prolific writer on all phases of medicine and surgery and later founded his own private anatomy classes, which was unexcelled for the number of students who later distinguished themselves in medicine. Among these students were Jenner, Abernethy, Carlisle, Chevalier, Cline Coleman, Astley Cooper, Home, Lynn, and Macartney.
In 1776, Hunter was honored by appointment as surgeon-extraordinary to the King of England. In 1782, he constructed a museum between his homes in London to house his anatomical and natural history collections. These eventually contained nearly 14,000 items, and at his death were purchased by the British government for the Royal College of Surgeons. The main exhibit hall, measuring 52 by 28 feet, was lighted from above and had a gallery for visitors.
Many stories are told of body stealing for dissection and for securing specimens for collections. None would better illustrate this than John Hunter's acquisition in 1783 of the body of the Irish giant O’Brien, at a cost to him of about $2,500.00. O’Brien, about 7 feet 7 inches in height and dreading dissection by Hunter had, shortly before his death, arranged with several of his friends that his corpse be conveyed by them to the and sunk in deep water. The undertaker, who it was said had entered into a pecuniary agreement with Hunter, managed that while the escort was drinking at a certain stage of the journey to the sea the coffin should be locked in a barn. Confederates, which the undertaker had concealed in the barn, speedily substituted an equivalent weight of stones for the body. At night, O’Brien's body was forwarded to Hunter who took it immediately to his museum, where it was dissected and boiled to procure the bones. The skeleton was on exhibit until May 1941, when three-fourths of the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, was destroyed by German bombers. Joshua Reynold's portrait of John Hunter displays the huge skeletal feet of O’Brien in the background.
Matthew Baillie
Dr Baillie (1761–1823) was a nephew of William and John Hunter. He was educated by his uncles and became famous as a physician and writer on medical subjects. He modified the Hunterian method of embalming, so as to provide as good preservation as ever in a shorter period. Using a solution of oil of turpentine, Venice turpentine, oil of chamomile, and oil of lavender (to which was added vermillion dye) he injected the femoral artery. He allowed several hours to elapse before he opened the body as in a postmortem examination and made a small incision in the bowel below the stomach, into which he inserted a small 17piece of pipe through which he introduced water to wash out the contents of the bowels. Then, ligating the rectum above the anus and the small bowels below the stomach, he filled the intestinal track with camphorated spirits of wine. The lungs were filled with camphorated spirits of wine via the trachea. The bladder was opened and emptied of its contents and a powder of camphor, resin, and niter was dusted over the viscera and the incision was dosed. The eyeballs were pierced and emptied of their contents and repacked to normal with the powder mixture, as were the mouth and ears. The body was rubbed with oil of rosemary or lavender and placed upon a bed of deep plaster.
Europe's Access to Cadavers
Continental European countries such as France, Germany, and Italy did not encounter the problems in supplying medical schools with cadavers as existed in Great Britain. Medical schools had access to bodies unclaimed for burial, a situation not present in the British Isles until after passage of the Warburton Ad in 1832. The problem in continental Europe was different, consisting of securing a means to preserve Cadavers for dissection with nonpoisonous chemicals. In France, for example, medical schools in the North had scheduled anatomical dissection classes during the cold months of the year as the cadavers were unembalmed.
By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, France and Italy had a number of different techniques and chemicals for embalming proposed by members of the medical or scientific communities.
Baron Leopold Cuvier (1769–1832) of France was a comparative anatomist whose classification of mammals and ava forms the groundwork for present-day systems. Cuvier advocated the use of pure alcohol as a preservative agent.
Dr Francois Chaussier (1746–1828) of France recommended immersion of an eviscerated body in a solution of bichloride of mercury for preservation.
Dr Louis Jacques Thenard (1777–1857) of France was a brilliant teacher of and researcher in chemistry. He discovered the nature of hydrogen peroxide and made study of human bile and the preservative action of bichloride of mercury. In 1834, he advocated introduction of an alcoholic solution of bichloride of mercury into the blood vessels to preserve cadavers for anatomical dissection.
Dr G Tranchina (also spelled Tranchini or Franchini) of the early 19th century in Naples, Italy, openly advocated and successfully used arsenical solutions, arterially injected, to preserve bodies for both funeral and anatomical purposes. Tranchini's method of embalming varied, but the fluid was usually composed of 1 pound of arsenic dissolved in 5 pounds of alcoholic wine. He usually injected 2 gallons of this solution into the femoral artery without drainage of blood. At other times, he injected the same amount into the right common carotid artery, sending the fluid first toward the head and then downward toward the body, allowing some drainage through the jugular vein. This was followed by incision of the abdomen, opening, and emptying of the bowels, and moistening of the bowels with the injecting solution. The lungs were filled with the fluid via the trachea. A body prepared in this manner is said to have completely dried in 6 weeks.
Dr JP Sucquet of France (mid-19th century) was one of the earliest proponents of the use of zinc chloride as a preservative agent. He injected about 5 quarts of a 20% solution of zinc chloride in water through the popliteal artery and also introduced some of this solution into the abdomen. One body prepared in this way was buried for 2 years, then disinterred and found to be in an excellent state of preservation. About 1845, an agent representing Dr Sucquet sold the US rights to his method and chemical to Dr Charls D Brown and Dr Joseph Alexander of New York City.
Jean-Nicolas Gannal (1791–1852), a chemist in France (Fig. 1.5), began his life's work as an apothecary's assistant. From 1808 to 1812, he served in the medical department of the French Army, including the Russian campaign under Napoleon. After his discharge from the army, he re-entered the field of chemistry and was appointed assistant to the great French chemistry teacher Theaard. He later became interested in industrial chemistry and did research on methods of refining borax and improving the quality of glues and gelatins. In 1827, he was awarded the Montyon science prize for developing a method of treating catarrh and tuberculosis with chlorine gas. In 1831, he was asked to devote his time to devising an improved method of preserving cadavers for anatomical purposes. Close application to the problem resulted in success, which was recognized in 1836 by the JL Ward to Gannal of a second Montyon science prize.
His experiments included the use of solutions of acids (acetic–arsenous–nitric–hydrochloric), alkali salts 18(copper–mercury alum), tannin–creosote–alcohol, and various combinations such as alum, sodium chloride, and nitrate of potash, and acetate of alumina and the chloride of alumina, the latter of which obliterated the lumen of blood vessels, is perfect method of embalming cadavers for anatomical purposes comprised the injection of about 6 quarts of a solution of acetate of alumina through the carotid artery without drainage of any blood. No evisceration or other treatment was used, although occasionally the bodies were immersed in the injecting solution until ready for dissection. Gannal used practically the same solution for embalming bodies for funeral purposes, although he did add a small quantity of arsenic and carmine to the solution. He injected about 2 gallons of this mixture, first upward and then downward in the carotid artery in less than one-half hour. No special treatment was given to the trunk viscera. In his book History of Embalming, he cited case histories of bodies he had embalmed and subsequently disinterred from 3 months to 13 months after burial. Gannal states that in every such case, the body was found in exactly the same state of preservation and appearance as when buried.
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Fig. 1.5: Portrait of Jean-Nicolas Gannal of age 4U.Courtesy: Ordre National des Pharmacien.
Gannal was involved in several precedent-making events. In mid-April 1840, a Paris newspaper published the following article:
  • The young boy found murdered in a field near Villette not having been recognized and the process of decomposition having commenced, the Magistrates ordered it to be embalmed by JN Gannal's simple method of injection through the carotid arteries, so that this evidence of the crime may remain producible. This is the first operation of the kind performed by order of the Justices, and it was completed in a quarter of an hour.
  • In his translation of Gannal's History of Embalming (1840) (Fig. 1.6), Harlan mentions that the Paris police have access to Gannal's embalming process to preserve bodies in the Paris morgue where murder has been suspected.
  • Gannal was indirectly responsible for the passage of the first law prohibiting the use of arsenic in embalming solutions in 1846 (to which the use of bichloride of mercury was also prohibited in 1848).
  • There are several versions of the story. In one, Gannal had omitted stating that a portion of arsenic was added to his alumina salts embalming chemical, and when this solution was analyzed and arsenic found, the medical community was enraged and compelled the law to be decreed. The other tale, never documented, relates that Gannal was retained to embalm the corpse of member of the nobility who died suddenly. The members of the nobleman's family accused the decedent's mistress of poisoning him with arsenic. Under French law, she was arrested and tried, the burden of her defense on her shoulders. Gannal followed the progress of the trial in the Paris newspapers and noted that the accused mistress was unable to prove her innocence. Finally at the last possible moment, Gannal appeared at the trial and requested permission to testify on her behalf. He states that in his opinion, the arsenic found in the body tissues of the deceased came there during the embalming with his embalming solution, as it contained arsenic. She was freed and the legal community petitioned for the abolition of arsenic in embalming solutions.
  • Gannal had three sons—Adolphe, Antoine, and Felix who became physicians and continued the embalming practice after his death. They embalmed many famous people including De Lesseps who constructed the Suez Canal. The sons died in the early 1900s.
  • Richard Harlan (1796–1843) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania graduated from the Pennsylvania. Medical College in 1818 and was placed in charge of Dr Joseph Parrish's private anatomical dissection rooms in Philadelphia. After engaging in various projects in company with other Philadelphia physicians he became a member of the city health council. In 1838, he traveled to Europe and spent a portion of his time in 19P is visiting—various medical faculties and meeting local savants, among whom was JN Gannal. After being presented with a copy of Gannal's History of Embalming, he became so fascinated with it that he requested and received permission to publish an American edition translated to English. The book, published in Philadelphia in 1840, became the first book devoted entirely to embalming procedures that was published in, the United States in English (Fig. 1.6).
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Fig. 1.6: Title page of Harlan's translation of the history of embalming.
Girolamo Segato
A physician of Florence, Italy (17th century), Segato is known to have converted the human body to stone by infiltrating the bodily tissues with a solution of silicate of potash and succeeded in this treatment by immersion of the body in a weak acid solution. The exact modus operandi is unknown.
Thomas Joseph Pettigrew
A London physician and surgeon, graduate of Guys Hospital, and fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Pettigrew (1791–1865) was one of the great historians of the science of embalming. His treatise History of Egyptian Mummies, published in London in 1834, is a masterpiece revealing Pettigrew's ability to accurately observe and minutely describe objects and processes of interest to students and practitioners of the art of embalming. This volume is to this day considered one of the fine works on Egyptian embalming methods and customs. In 1854, he withdrew from the practice of medicine and devoted his entire energy to the study of archaeology.
A French physician of the mid-19th century, Falconry employed a means of preservation of cadavers for anatomical purposes that are of interest because of its simplicity. The corpse was placed upon a bed of dry sawdust to which about a gallon of powdered zinc sulfate had been added. No injections, incisions, baths, or any additional treatment was used. The bodies so treated were said to have remained flexible for about 40 days, after which time they dried and assumed the appearance of mummies.
Thomas Marshall
Marshall was a London physician who published an account of a means of embalming in the London Medical Gazette in December 1839. His technique consisted of generously puncturing the body surface with needles or scissors and repeatedly brushing the body surface with strong acetic acid. A diluted acetic acid solution was introduced into the cavities of the body. The author claimed that the acetic acid would restore normal color even to gangrenous tissue.
John Morgan (Circa 1863)
A professor of anatomy at the University of Dublin, Dr Morgan made use of two principles, which are widely recognized as necessary to achieve the best embalming results—(1) the use of the largest possible artery for injection, and (2) the use of force or pressure to push 20the preserving fluid through the blood vessels. Also noted are his use of a preinjection solution (the earliest mention found) and his controlled technique of drainage. Dr Morgan cut the sternum down its center, opened the pericardium to expose the heat, made an incision into the left ventricle or into the aorta, and inserted a piece of pipe about 8-inches long. This injecting pipe was connected by 15 feet of tubing to a fluid container that was maintained 12 feet above the corpse, thereby producing about 5 pounds of pressure (Fig. 1.7).
The tip of right auricular appendage was clipped off to allow blood drainage. The first injection was composed of ½ gallon of a saturated salt solution to which was added 4 ounces of niter. After this solution was allowed to “rush” through the circulatory system, a clamp was fastened over the auricular appendage when the drainage stopped. Several more gallons of a solution of common salt, niter, alum, and arsenate of potash were injected until the body was thoroughly saturated with the fluid. No special treatment of the internal organs or viscera was mentioned.
At this time, there was virtually no embalming of the dead for funeral purposes available for the largest percentage of deaths.
Many books were written regarding the dangers of the living of exposure to the dead buried or entombed (unembalmed) in churches or in city cemeteries. There was also concern for those who handled the dead.
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Fig. 1.7: Gravity fluid injection. The jar filled with arterial chemical could be elevated several feet above the corpse, thus creating pressure for injection.Courtesy: Paula Johnson De Smet.
Bernardino Ramazzini
The founder of occupational medicine, Ramazzini (1633–1714) wrote the Diseases of Workers in 1700, and an enlarged edition of that text was published in 1713. The latter edition contained a chapter on the Disease of Corpse Bearers.
Numerous publications varying in size from leaflets to bound books were printed inveighing against existing burial practices. A few relevant titles are considerations on the indecent and dangerous custom of burying in churches etc. 1721, London, A Batesworth; Blame of Kirk Burial, Tending to Persuade Cemeterial Civility, 1606 NP; Rev William Birnie; Gatherings from Graveyards, Particularly those of London etc. 1830, GA Walker, surgeon, London; and Sepulture, History, Methods, and Sanitary Requisites, 1884, Stephen Wickes, Philadelphia. The astonishing accounts contained in these or similar works should convince even the most skeptical opponent of embalming of the sanitary value of the embalming process.
From Europe to the Colonies
The transfer of embalming knowledge from Europe to the colonies in what today is the United States was accomplished by several means.
Anatomical study in the colonies as early as 1676 in Boston and again in 1750 recorded that “Ors John Bard and Peter Middleton injected and dissected the body of an executed criminal for the instruction of young men engaged in the study of medicine”. In 175, the NY Weekly Postboy carried an advertisement offering anatomy instruction by Dr Thomas Wood. From 1754 to 1756, William Hunter, physician and student of the famed anatomy teacher Alexander Monro I of Edinburgh, Scotland (and a relative of the Hunter Brothers), lectured on anatomy at Newport, Rhode Island. Doctors William Shippen and John Morgan of Philadelphia studied medicine in Europe and anatomy under British anatomists. Upon their return to the United States between 1762 and 1765, they became engaged in teaching medical subjects, especially anatomy, in Philadelphia.
In 1840 the translation of Gannal's book The History of Embalming into English was to provide the first text in English printed in the United States devoted to embalming. In the mid-1840s, the acquisition of Sucquet's embalming technique and chemicals as a franchise by Dr Charles D Brown and Dr Joseph Alexander of New York City added to the increasing amount of embalming knowledge transferred to the United States.21
Modern Period
By the year 1861 and the onset of the Civil War, the transfer of embalming knowledge from Europe to the United States was virtually concluded. A small group of medically trained embalmers existed together with printed information such as Harlan's translation of Gannal's textbook and various European embalming formulas and techniques that had been acquired.
Until the Civil War, however, little or no embalming was performed for funeral purposes. Most preservation, such as it was, for brief periods was provided by ice refrigeration when available.
With the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, there began the raising of troops by the North and South to prosecute the war. Little if any embalming was available to the southerners during the war. Virtually all embalming was done by northerners. Since Washington, IX—was the capital city of the North, it became a center for troop concentration both to protect the city and to serve as a marshalling point for the armies moving against the south.
Northern troops composed of individual companies from small geographical areas and regiments from individual states as disparate as Vermont and Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York crowded into the Washington DC area. Civilian embalmers Dr Thomas Holmes, William J Bunnell, Dr Charles DeCosta Brown, Dr Joseph B Alexander, Dr Richard Burr, Dr Daniel H Prunk, Frank A Hu on, GW Scollay, CB Chamberlain, Henry P Cattell, Dr Benjamin Lyford, Samuel Rodgers, Dr EC Lewis, WP Cornelius, and Prince Greer are known to have embalmed during the Civil War. There are others who to this day remain anonymous.
None of the embalming surgeons, as they were called, were ever employed in the military as embalmers. Some had been or would become military surgeons but did not perform embalming while in the military service.
Civil War Times
At the beginning of the Civil War, as in all previous wars fought by the United States, there was no provision for return of the dead to their homes. In the Seminole Indian Wars (during the 1830s), the Mexican War (1846–1848), and the campaigns against the Indians up to the outbreak of the Civil War, the military dead were buried in the field near where they fell in battle. It was possible for the relatives to have the remains returned to their home for local burial under certain conditions.
  • The next of kin was to request the disinterment and return of the body in a written request to the Quartermaster General.
  • Upon military authority confirmation that the burial place was known and disinterment could be effected, the family was advised to send a coffin capable of being hermetically sealed to a designated Quartermaster Officer nearest the place of burial.
  • Such Quartermaster Officer would provide a force of men to take the coffin to the grave, disinter the remains, and place them in the coffin and seal it. The coffined remains would then be returned to the place of ultimate reinterment.
During the early days of the Civil War and less frequently as the war dragged on, some family members of the deceased personally went to hospitals and battlefields to search for their dead and bring them home for burial. Civil War embalming was carried out with a variety of chemicals and techniques. Arterial embalming was applied when possible. An artery, usually the femoral or carotid, was raised and injected without any venous drainage in most cases. Usually no cavity treatment was administered. When arterial embalming was believed impossible because of the nature of wounds or decomposition, other means of preparation of the body for transport were resorted to. In some cases, the trunk was eviscerated and the cavity filled with sawdust or powdered charcoal or lime. The body was then placed in a coffin completely imbedded in sawdust or similar material. In other cases, the body was coffined as mentioned without evisceration.
Chemicals employed during the Civil War were totally self-manufactured by the embalmers and included, as basic preservatives, arsenicals, zinc chloride, bichloride of mercury, salts of alumina, sugar of lead, and a host of salts, alkalies, and acids. An example of fluid manufacture of one of the most popular embalming chemicals, zinc chloride, was the immersion of sheets of zinc in hydrochloric acid until a saturated solution was obtained. The resulting zinc chloride solution was injected without further dilution. Many of the injection pumps employed were quite similar to what would be described as greatly enlarged hypodermic syringes. Many require the filling of the syringe, the attachment of cannula, emptying of e syringe, unfastening of the syringe, and refilling. It was an extremely slow process! A few pumps were designed to provide continuous flow, aspirating the embalming chemical continuously from a large source into the pump during the injection process. Others, such as the Holmes 22invention, were designed to fit over a bucket that could hold a gallon or more of liquid.
On May 24, 1861, 24-year-old Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, commander of the 11th NY Volunteer Infantry, was shot to death in Alexandria, Virginia, as he seized a confederate flag displayed atop the Marshall House Hotel. He became the first prominent military figure killed in the war. His body was embalmed by Dr Thomas Holmes, who had set up an embalming establishment in Washington DC. Colonel Ellsworth had funeral services in the White House, in New York City, and in Albany, New York, with the burial in his home town of Mechanicsburg, New York. His funeral set a pattern to be followed by prominent members of the military, culminating in President Lincoln's historic funeral services. Colonel Ellsworth's embalming and viewable appearance were widely and favorably commented on in the press and did much to familiarize the previously uninformed public with embalming.
The Army issued only two sets of orders relative to fatal casualties in the early stages of the war, On September 11, 1861, War Department general order 75 directed the Quartermaster Department to supply all general and post-hospitals with blank books and forms for the preservation of accurate death records and to provide material for headboards to be erected over soldiers’ graves. On April 3, 1862, Section II of War Department general order 33 stated:
“In order to secure as far as possible the decent interment of those who have fallen; or may fall in battle, it is made the duty of commanding generals to lay off lots of ground in some suitable spot near every battlefield, as soon as it may be in their power, and to cause the remains of those killed to be interred, with headboards to the graves bearing numbers, and when practicable, the names of the persons buried in them. A register for each burial ground will be preserved, in which will be noted the marks corresponding with the headboards.
This was the origin of what was to become the National Cemetery System.
Embalming Surgeons of the Civil War
Dr Thomas Holmes (1817-1900): Holmes was born in New York City in 1817 and educated in local public schools and New York University Medical College, though the records of the period are incomplete and document only his attendance, not his graduation. He did practice medicine and was a Coroner's physician in New York during the 1850s as numerous newspaper stories at. He apparently moved to Williamsburg (now Brooklyn) and experimented with a variety of chemicals for embalming and techniques. When the Civil War broke out, he opened an embalming office in Washington, DC and Colonel Ellsworth became his first prominent client. Holmes subsequently embalmed Colonel ED Baker, a prominent politician and soldier killed in battle. This case brought more publicity both for Dr Holmes and for embalming (Fig. 1.8).
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Fig. 1.8: Portrait of Dr Thomas Holmes.
Holmes ultimately prepared about 4,000 bodies (including 8 generals), and patented many inventions relating to embalming during his lifetime. One in particular, a rubber-coated canvas removal bag, was far ahead of its time (Fig. 1.9).
When the war ended, Dr Holmes returned home to Brooklyn and only occasionally practiced embalming. He operated a drugstore and manufactured a variety of products as diverse as embalming fluid and root beer! He invested heavily in a health resort and lost the investment. He wrote little about embalming, did not teach, and had no children. After a serious fall in his home, he became periodically psychotic and occasionally required confinement. When he died in 1900, it was said that he wanted no embalming.
William J Bunnell (1823–1891): Bunnell was born in New Jersey, moved to New York City, and in the 1850s became acquainted with Dr Holmes and married his sister. Dr Holmes found him employment as an anatomy technician for some New York medical schools while teaching him embalming. When war broke out, Bunnell did not work directly with Dr Holmes but formed his own Embalming 23Surgeon's Organization with Dr RB Heintzelman from Philadelphia as his active partner. Holmes and Bunnell did occasionally work together during the war at Gettysburg and at City Point, Virginia. After the war, it was reported that Bunnell was practicing medicine briefly in Omaha, Nebraska and eventually opened an undertaking establishment in Jersey City, New Jersey. He became a marshal at the funeral of General Grant and became prominent in Undertakers Associations. His son George Holmes Bunnell (1 1932) followed his father in the business and was given assistance by his uncle, Dr Holmes George H Bunnell had twin sons, Milton, who became a funeral director, and Chester, who became a physician.
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Fig. 1.9: Front page of The Sunnyside, June 1886, featuring an article on Dr Holmes removal bag, citing its all-around utility as a sleeping bag and stretcher, its ability to be inflated as a raft and of course its use as a corpse removal bag or coffin.
Dr Charles DeCosta Brown, Dr Joseph B Alexander, and Henry P Cattell: Brown, Alexander, and Cattell were all active in the firm of Brown and Alexander, Embalming Surgeons. It is not known whether Brown and Alexander met in New York City in the late 1850s or in Washington, DC in early wartime. Cattell (Fig. 1.10) is believed to have been the stepson of Dr Charles Brown's brother, as his mother married a Dr Brown in 1860. In any event, he entered the employment of the firm that embalmed Willie Lincoln, son of the President Abraham Lincoln, and later embalmed the President himself in 1865. After the war Dr Brown abandoned embalming, returned to New York City practiced dentistry, and became very active in the Masonic Lodge. He died in 1896 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
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Fig. 1.10: Portrait of Henry P Cattell, an associate of Brown and Alexander, the embalming surgeons who embalmed Willie Lincoln in 1862 and President Lincoln in 1865.
Alexander died in 1871 in Washington, DC. HP Cattell halted his embalming practice after the war became a lithographer and then entered the Washington, DC police force. None of his family was ever aware that he had embalmed President Lincoln. He died in 1915 and is buried in Washington, DC.
Frank A Hutton Little is known of Hutton's personal biography. Born in or near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, about 1835, he was a pharmacist by occupation. He had military service in the 110th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry ending in June 1862, was discharged in Washington, DC, and became a partner in the firm of Chamberlain and Hutton, Surgeons. This partnership did not last long and Hutton withdrew in February, 1863. He formed the firm of Hutton and Company with EA Williams, son of a Washington, DC undertaker as his partner. Hutton advertised in the Washington City Directory, taking a full page space to extol his embalming expertise. He was also issued Patent 38,747 for an embalming fluid on June 1, 1863. The formula included alcohol, arsenic, bichloride of mercury, and zinc chloride.
During mid-April 1863, Hutton became embroiled in an argument with a client over charges for shipping his son's body to him. The client complained to Colonel LC Baker, 24provost marshal of the Capitol, who, on April 20, 1863, arrested Hutton and seized the contents of his office as evidence. Hutton was confined in the Old Capitol Prison for about 10 days and then released. No details of his release or trial have been found. He subsequently relocated his quarters and continued in business with a much diminished clientele. Hutton is said to have returned to Harrisburg after the war ended and died there within a year.
Daniel H Prunk (1829–1923): Born in Virginia in 1829, Prunk and his family migrated to Illinois where he attended college. After attending medical school in Cincinnati, he began medical practice in Illinois and, in April 1861, moved to Indianapolis where he joined the 19th Indiana Volunteer Infantry as an assistant surgeon in September, 1861. He was transferred to the 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry in June 1862, and was arrested in November of that year and incarcerated in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC for about 3 months for conduct unbecoming of an officer. He was then dismissed from the service. From July to October, 1863 he was acting assistant surgeon at the 2nd Division Army Hospital at Nashville, Tennessee, and subsequently requested permission to provide embalming services in Nashville. The request was initially refused but finally granted late in 1863. He eventually had embalming establishment local not only in Nashville but also in Chattanooga and Knoxville in Tennessee, at East Point, Atlanta, Dalton, and Marietta in Georgia, and at Huntsville in Alabama (Fig. 1.11).
In 1865, Dr Prunk was licensed by the Army to practice embalming and undertaking. (He was also engaged in a wholesale grocery business, cotton trading, and money lending.) He made his own embalming fluid by dissolving sheets of zinc in muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) until a saturated solution of zinc chloride was obtained to which a quantity of arsenious acid was added. The fluid obtained was injected quite warm without dilution or blood drainage.
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Fig. 1.11: Injection syringe and cannulas of Dr Daniel J Prunk, Civil War embalming surgeon.Courtesy: The Illinois Funeral Director's Foundation.
Prunk sold all his embalming establishments in 1866 and returned to Indianapolis to practice medicine. It seems that he never engaged in embalming after his return to Indianapolis. He made one of the earliest written statements regarding the necessity of cavity treatment in a letter written in 1872 to Dr JP Buckesto of San Jose, California.
“If I were going to ship a corpse from San Jose to New York City, we have advised for sometime the puncturing of the stomach to give vent to gases, which accumulate at this time. In a subject with a large abdomen, where the bowels are discolored, the introduction of a couple of quarts into the peritoneal cavity by making a puncture near the umbilicus and throwing a thread of strong silk around it like a drawstring on a button cushion, which can be readily closed after you are thru injecting.”
Dr Richard Burr: Although little biographical information other than his rumored origin in Philadelphia is available concerning Burr (who apparently practiced during the period 1862–1865), he has achieved immortality as the embalmer photographed by the Civil War photographer Brady in front of his embalming tent while injecting a subject (Fig. 1.12).
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Fig. 1.12: Dr Richard Burr embalming near a battlefield during the Civil War.Courtesy: Library of Congress.
25WJ Bunnell complained about Burr's unprofessional conduct, alleging that, among other things, he set Bunnell's embalming tent on fire! He was also one of the men against whom complaints had been issued regarding inflated prices and poor services, which resulted in all embalmers’ being excluded from military areas by order of General US Grant in January 1865. This resulted in establishment of the first set of rules and regulations for the licensing of embalmers and undertakers in the United States.
The final Army order for embalmers contained some of the suggestions made by Dr Barnes, chief of the Anny Medical Service in December, 1863, to the effect that a performance bond should be posted by any embalmer desiring to practice. In addition, the requirement stipulated by the Provost Marshal General ordered the embalmer to furnish a list of his prices as charged for work or merchandise to the provost Marshal General, the medical director of the department, and the Post Provost Marshal.
US Army general order 39 concerning embalmers (March 15, 1865) read as follows:
  • Here after no persons will be permitted to embalm or remove the bodies of deceased officers or soldiers unless acting under the special license of the Provost Marshal of the Army, department, or district in which the bodies may be.
  • Provost marshals will restrict disinterments to seasons when they can be made without endangering the health of the troops. They will grant licenses only to such persons as furnish proof of skill and ability as embalmers, and will require bonds for the faithful performance of the orders given them. They will also establish a scale of prices by which embalmers are to be governed, with such other regulations as will protect the interest of the friends and relatives of deceased soldiers.
  • Applicants for license will apply directly to the provost Marshal of the Army or department in which they may desire to pursue their business, submitting in distinct terms the process adopted by them, materials, length of time, its preservative effect can be relied on and such other information as may be necessary to establish their proficiency and success. Medical directors will give such assistance in the examination of these applications as may be required by the Provost Marshal.
In the Army of the Cumberland, the following additional requirements were stipulated:
  • No disinterments will be permitted within the department between the 15th day of May and the 15th day of October.
  • The following seal of prices will be observed from and after this date—at Nashville and Memphis—for embalming bodies each at $15.00 to disinter, furnish metallic burial cases, well-boxed marked and delivered to the express office each at $75.00, zinc coffins and the ABO listed services, each at $40.00. An additional charge of $5.00 may be made for embalming and also for either of the above styles of coffins at Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Huntsville, Alabama, or in the field.
  • No person will be permitted to operate as an embalmer under any license issued to him until he shall have filed a bond in this office in the penal sum of $1,000 conditioned for the faithful observance of this order, and for the skillful performance of such work, as he shall undertake by virtue of his license. (Such licenses were not transferable from one individual to another).
By 1864, the Armory Square Military Hospital in Washington, DC had all its deceased patients routinely embalmed and the grave recorded, so that the body could be disinterred and sent to family or friends when requested.
CB Chamberlain: Chamberlain is said to have Philadelphia as his origin. Although very little is known of the man, he definitely was an early partner of FA Hutton. He and Hutton apparently were not compatible, and he formed a new partnership with Ben Lyford. They both can be documented as practicing embalming surgeons on the scene at Gettysburg after the battle. Chamberlain is listed in the Washington, DC City Directory as late as 1865 as a partner in Chamberlain and waters Embalmers at 431, Pennsylvania Avenue. He is mentioned by FC Beinhauer, Pittsburgh undertaker, as being in the Pittsburgh area prior to and during the Civil War. Joseph H Oarke also mentioned Chamberlain. As a teacher of embalming in the post-Civil War period.
GW Scollay: Judging from the various patents issued to him, Scollay was apparently from St Louis, Missouri. Very little personal information about him has been uncovered. He appeared to be an active embalming surgeon at the Gettysburg battlefield and in the area near Richmond. He has a listing in the 1865 Washington, DC City Directory as a member of the firm of Scollay and Sands-Embalmers of the Dead. Frank T Sands was a prominent undertaker in Washington, DC. Scollay patented two methods of embalming in the post-Civil War period, one in January 261867 and the other in October 1869. Both patents involved the use of gaseous compounds injected via the blood vascular system, one of the earliest recommendations for choice of gas rather than a liquid as a preservative introduced into the blood vascular system. In 1860, Scollay patented a two-piece cast glass coffin and, during the war, produced a number of different “sanitary” coffins.
Benjamin F Lyford: Born in Vermont in 1841 and receiving public school education there, Lyford attended and graduated from Philadelphia University's 6-month course of medical studies. He first appears on the Civil War scene as a partner of CB Chamberlain, who provided embalming after the Battle of Gettysburg. Later he had altercations with Provost Marshal General Rudolph Patrick of the Army of the Potomac. This series of disagreements stimulates him to accept appointment on July 1, 1864, as assistant surgeon of the 68th Regiment of Infantry US Colored Troops. He reported to the unit in Missouri and subsequently served Memphis. For a time, he served as commanding officer of a small cavalry and artillery contingent in southern Alabama.
He returned to his regiment stationed near New Orleans, Louisiana, and went on leave in New Orleans. He was arrested inside a bordello in full uniform and faced court martial charges. Apparently found innocent of the charges, he was discharged from the Army on February 5, 1866, traveled to San Francisco, and opened an office for medical practice. One of his early patients was a wealthy, widowed landowner who had an attractive daughter whom he fell in love with and married. The mother owned large tracts of land in Marin County across the bay north of San Francisco. Lyford built a health resort and dairy as well as his own home on this property and prospered.
In 1871, Lyford patented an improvement in embalming, which was a very complicated system consisting of the introduction through the blood vessels of specially distilled chemicals (including creosote, zinc chloride, potassium nitrate, and alcohol), while the body was enclosed in a sealed container. The container, to have the air within it, alternatively evacuated to create a vacuum and reversed to create pressure. Finally, the body was eviscerated and the trunk cavity filled with an arsenical powder. His final recommendation was the use of cosmetics to color the features; he was one of the first to make this recommendation. In 1870, a local newspaper carried a story describing a body he had successfully embalmed. Dr Lyford died in 1906 without issue and had a large well-attended funeral.
Dr EC Lewis, WP Cornelius, and Prince Greer: This most interesting account of the Civil War embalming surgeons relates the method of the transmission of embalming technique from a medically trained practitioner to an undertaker, who, in turn, trained a layman in the skill. Dr EC Lewis was a former US Army surgeon, WP Cornelius (1824–1910) was a successful undertaker in Nashville, Tennessee, and Prince Greer was a former orderly, body servant, and slave of a Colonel Greer of a Texas cavalry regiment who died in the fighting in Tennessee.
Dr Thomas Holmes wrote: In the forepart of the war, a young ex-Army doctor named EC Lewis called at my headquarters in Washington and wished me to instruct him in the embalming profession and sell him an outfit to go to the western Army and locate at Nashville. He offered as security a property holding m Georgetown, DC for any amount of fluid I would trust him for. I made a bargain with him and he used many barrels of fluid, I was often surprised at his large orders. (Note: Dr. Lewis headquarters were at Mr Cornelius undertaking establishment in Nashville.)
Cornelius stated: It was during the year 1862 that one Dr EC Lewis came to me from the employ of Dr Holmes and proposed to embalm bodies. It was new to me but I at once put him to work with the Holmes fluid and Holmes injector. He was quite an expert, but like many men could not stand prosperity and soon wanted to get into some other kind of business, which he did. When Lewis the embalmer quit, I then undertook the embalming myself with a colored assistant named Prince Greer.
Cornelius explained that Prince Greer had earlier brought the body of Colonel Greer of Texas cavalry regiment to Cornelius for shipment back to Texas. After shipping back, the body Prince Greer remained at Cornelius’ premises and was asked what he wanted to do to earn his room and board. Prince Greer indicated he would do anything.
Cornelius continued: “Prince Greer appeared to enjoy embalming so much that he himself became an expert, kept on at work embalming during the balance of the war, and was very successful at it was but a short time before he could raise an artery as quickly as anyone and was always careful, always of course coming to me in a difficult case. He remained with me until I quit the business in 1871.”
Prince Greer is the First Documented Black Embalmer in US History
Public and professional acceptance: With the ending of the war and the Assassination of President Lincoln, the Civil 27War's last major casualty, the public had been familiarized with term embalming and obtained personal knowledge of the appearance of an embalmed body. This knowledge was acquired by the hundreds of thousands who viewed not only President Lincoln but other prominent military and civilian figures as well as the ordinary soldiers embalmed and shipped to their homes.
Despite, the end of the war and the establishment of peace there was no wide adoption of embalming by civilian undertakers of the United States. There were many reasons for this apparent reluctance to adopt a worthwhile new practice. Undertakers in the United States at the end of the Civil War were an unorganized, largely rural group of individuals lacking a professional body of knowledge and skills. Specifically, they lacked textbooks of instruction of embalming, instructors and schools of embalming, professional journals, and professional associations. Until these necessities became available embalming would not flourish.
The first step taken was to attempt to sale of embalming fluid to undertakers. Some Civil War embalming surgeons, such as Dr Thomas Holmes, engaged in this endeavor upon returning home. Holmes had a large local market (metropolitan New York City) for his preservative chemical, which he had named Innominata, and he promoted it well. Holmes, like other embalming chemical salesmen, realized quickly that the undertakers were interested in the preservative qualities of such chemicals but the clients were without knowledge of embalming techniques. Holmes therefore promoted the use of his Innominata as an external application to wash the body and to saturate cloths to place over the face. His fluid was also poured into the mouth and nose to reach the lungs and stomach. Holmes’ early practices were duplicated by other purveyors of embalming chemicals.
In these early post-Civil War years, some instruction of undertakers in arterial embalming was imparted by the occasional knowledgeable traveling salesman who sold embalming chemicals. CB Chamberlain is reported to have done this in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
Examples of chemical embalming fluid patents include one issued to CH Crane of Burr Oak, Michigan, in September 1868. It was a powdered mixture of alum salt, ammonium chloride, arsenic, bichloride of mercury, camphor, and zinc chloride. It could be used as a dry powder or dissolved in water or alcohol to form an arterial solution and was named Crane's electrodynamic mummifier. In 1876, he sold the patent rights to this or a similar formulation to a Professor George M Rhodes of Michigan. Another early embalming chemical manufacturer in 1877 was the Mills and Lacey Manufacturing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose embalming fluid featured arsenic as its preservative.
Instruments and chemicals available in the post-Civil War period included rubber gloves at $2 per pair (1 77); anatomical syringes and three cannulas m a case for $20–22; surgical instruments in cases for $4–5; Rulon's wax eyecaps and mouth closers at $1 each; and Segestor embalming fluid for $4.50 per dozen pint bottles (1873). Professor George M Rhodes was said to have sold 100,000 bottles of his dynamic Electro Balm in 1876 with more than 3,000 undertakers using the product. Egyptian Embalmer Fluid (1877) sold for $6.50 per dozen pint bottles and was also available in 5- and 10-gallon kegs as well as ½ and 1-gallon carboys at $3.00 per gallon.
Until the first quarter of the 20th century, embalming was most frequently carried out in the home of the deceased or, in some communities, in the hospital where death occurred. There were early attempts in some funeral homes in the 1870s to provide both a preparation room and chapel space for the wake and services. In issues as early as 1876 of both the Casket and the sunnyside, there were accounts reported of the installation of preparation rooms. For example:
  • Maynard Funeral Home, Syracuse, NY, had a morgue fitted with marble slabs and running water for storing bodies.
  • Hubbard and Searles Undertaking establishment at Auburn, NY, could provide seating for 100 persons at a service and had a cooling room with cement floor and marble slabs (2 × 8 feet) and running water connection.
  • Knowles undertaking establishment at Providence, RI had a preserver room and a corpse room where surgical procedures and postmortems were made.
  • The Douglas under asking Company of Utica, NY had a room for funeral services and a cooling vault in the cellar, which had walls 3-feet thick and also contained shelves for body storage.
Dr Auguste Renouard: In 1876, Dr Renouard (1839–1912) became a regular contributor to The Casket of articles on all phases of embalming knowledge, which greatly implemented interest in embalming. He was born on a plantation—in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, and received his early schooling locally. He is said to have attended to McDowell Medical school in St Louis, Missouri, and, at the outbreak of the Civil War, to have returned to Louisiana to enlist in the confederate Army. Despite his 28claim to military service in the confederate forces, no documented evidence has been found in some 50 years of searching. In the postwar period, he secured employment as a pharmacist in various cities such as New York, Memphis, and Chicago, where he was married. His son, Charles A, was born shortly before the Chicago fire of 1871. Losing everything in the fire, Renouard traveled to Denver, Colorado, and secured employment as a book-keeper for a combination furniture store and undertaking establishment. Because of its altitude, Denver at this time was regarded as a health resort for treatment of lung diseases. The undertaking section of the firm returned many bodies to the east and south for hometown burial, and Renouard became interested in the procedures employed at his firm for shipment of the bodies. After studying the existing rudimentary system, he suggested to his employer that he be permitted to prepare the bodies for postmortem by arterial embalming. This consent was given and it almost immediately produced a volume of letters from the receiving undertakers inquiring about the procedure used to create such beautiful corpses, which resembled a person asleep. Renouard graciously replied, explaining his chemicals and technique to the extent that it assumed the proportions of a correspondence course. Additionally, there were a number of individual undertakers who traveled to Denver to receive personal instruction in embalming from Renouard.
The publisher of The Casket urged Dr Renouard to write a textbook on embalming and undertaking for use by undertakers. In 1878, he published The Undertaker's Manual which contained 230 pages of detailed instruction anatomy, chemistry, embalming procedures, instruments, and details of undertaking practice (Fig. 1.13). This was the first book published specifically as an embalming textbook in the United States and would be followed by a hor4e of others. In 1879, notices appeared in The Casket that undertakers in states such as Connecticut and Pennsylvania were agents for the sail of Auguste Renouard's chemical formulas and techniques (Fig. 1.14).
In 1881, the doctor was requested to open a school of embalming in Rochester, New York, but for a variety of reasons, this did not become a reality until early 1883. In 1880, the state of Michigan was the first to form an Undertaker's Association, which, in 1881, changed the name to Funeral Directors.
Association: Other states quickly followed the Michigan lead and organized state associations. The various state associations met in 1882 in Rochester and organized the National Funeral Directors Association, another important step toward professionalism. Renouard provided demonstrations of embalming in Rochester at the first national convention of the Association.
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Fig. 1.13: Title page of Auguste Renouard's first edition of The Undertaker's Manual.
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Fig. 1.14: Auguste Renouard's chemical formulas for embalming fluid.
This sets a pattern for many 29years of an obligatory embalming demonstration at state and national conventions. During the 1882 gathering, agents of an English firm (Dottridge Brothers, Funeral Supply Firm) offered Renouard a 5-year contract to teach embalming in London at $5000 per year, which he rejected.
The Rochester School of Embalming headed by Dr Renouard under the auspices of the Egyptian Chemical Company opened in 1883 and he continued his affiliation with this school until December 1884. He then entered into an agreement with Hallett and Company Undertakers in Kansas City, Missouri, to locate his school, the School of Embalming and Organic Chemistry, on the company's premises. By mid-1886, he terminated his school in Kansas City and returned to Denver. He then began to travel to distant points such as Fort Worth, Texas, and Toronto, and Montreal, Canada, providing embalming instruction for periods ranging from 3 days to 2 weeks.
In 1894, Dr Renouard made his final move to New York City and established the College of Embalming. The school had no fixed term classes and the student remained until he was able to embalm. In 1889, the doctor's son, Charles A was reported to be a shipping clerk with the firm of Dolge and Huneke-Embalming Chemical Manufacturers. Early in 1899, Charles opened the Renouard Training School for Embalmers in New York City and, in February 1900, Auguste Renouard closed the US College of Embalming and joined Charles at his school. Charles provided several months of embalming instruction in London, England, on behalf of the O.K. Buckhout Chemical Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1906, Auguste traveled to England and continental Europe where he was most graciously received and entertained.
Auguste Renouard died in his home in 1912. A monument paid for by voluntary subscription of his former students was an example of the esteem in which he was held by those he instructed. He can, without question, be regarded as the first major figure to provide embalming instruction for undertakers in the United States. His son Charles continued the Renouard Training School for Embalmers until his death in 1950.
Joseph Henry Clarke: Born in Connersville, Indiana, Joseph Henry Clarke (1840–1916) received his early education in Pharmacy and enrolled as a student in a medical college in Keokuk, Iowa. His studies, however, were interrupted by the Civil War. He volunteered for service with the Union Arm, 3, but was rejected because of physical defects. He was permitted to serve as a civilian and later held the position of assistant hospital steward in the 5th Iowa Infantry. After the death of his father, he returned home before the end of the war to support his family. He married and secured employment as a casket salesman. During the course of his travels, he became acquainted with a fluid manufacturer and became sufficiently interested in embalming to sell embalming fluids as a sideline. His interest in embalming grew as he realized the need to demonstrate the method of use of the fluid he hoped to sell to his patrons. This, in turn, led to his study of and experimentation with embalming chemicals to solve problems relating to preservation of the dead. He enrolled in an anatomy course conducted by Dr CM Lukens of the Pulte Medical College in Cincinnati, Ohio, which broadened into a lifetime friendship and professional partnership in the founding of the Clarke School of Embalming at Cincinnati in 1882 (Fig. 1.15).
The school lacked permanence because Mr Clarke traveled most of the year giving courses of instruction, each course varying in length from 2 days to 7 days. His second course of instruction away from Cincinnati was presented in New York City. One class member was Felix A Sullivan, who would later become a well-known teacher and writer in the embalming field. Sullivan and Clarke became rivals and bitter enemies. One major clash occurred when General and ex-President Ulysses S Grant died on July 23, 1885, at Mount McGregor, New York. Clarke had been advised by the Holmes Undertaking Company (no relation to Dr Holmes) of Saratoga, New York that the company would be retained to handle the funeral of General Grant and that they wanted Clarke to do the embalming.
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Fig. 1.15: Portrait of Joseph Henry Clarke—founder of the Cincinnati College of Embalming.
30Clarke was in Baltimore on the day of Grant's death, but he became ill and went to his Springfield, Ohio, home where he was bedridden for 3–4 weeks. The embalming was accordingly performed by one member of the Holmes Undertaking Company family and a Dr McEwen using Clarke's proprietary embalming chemical.
After the body had been embalmed Rev Stephen Merritt, clergyman and undertaker of New York City and also General Grant's religious adviser, arrived together with Felix A Sullivan d an11ol!nced that they were to take charge. The Holmes personnel withdrew from the premises and Sullivan proceeded to re-embalm the body. He claimed he withdrew all previously injected arterial fluid and replaced it with the chemical made by the company he represented. Clarke rebuffed these claims in the professional journals. A reporter from the New York Times wrote that Mr Holmes (of Saratoga, New York) was too drunk to carry out the necessary preparation of the body. The New York Times was subsequently sued for libel and lost the case, and Mr Holmes was awarded several thousand dollars in damages.
The name of the embalming school was changed in 1899 to the Cincinnati College of Embalming and was established on a permanent basis. Mr Clarke conducted only occasional lecture tours at that time. He was ably assisted in the management of the school by his son—C Horace Clarke. In 1907, Charles O Dhonau became associated with him and later took over operation of the school. Mr Clarke was a capable teacher, lecturer, and author of several texts on embalming, and he held several patents in the embalming fields. He retired in 1909 to San Diego, California, where he died in 1916.
Felix Aloysius Sullivan (1843–1931): Sullivan was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1843, the son of a Scotch immigrant undertaker and an Irish mother. He unquestionably had the most interesting, controversial, riotous, and successful career as a practitioner, writer, teacher, and lecturer of embalming and related subjects. His career was so full of incidents that it would be impossible to recount all but a few highlights. After the usual parochial school education and some experience working with his father, Sullivan, together with several other friends, crossed the border into the United States and enlisted in a New York cavalry regiment during the Civil War. Military records verify his service but reveal he deserted to service near the end of the war. He claims to have assisted in embalming while in the service, but the claim can neither be affirmed nor denied, as it lacks proof.
After the Civil War, he followed various occupations and traveled. He eventually drifted to New York City where he secured employment with various casket companies and finally became a funeral director for hire. He studied anatomy and other medical sciences and, by 1881, became an embalmer of some local repute. He was hired to go to Cleveland, Ohio, to re-embalm President Garfield, who died from an Assassin's bullet, and seems to have been successful in this venture. Sullivan attended Clarke's embalming class in New York City in 1882 to learn how such a class of instruction was conducted. Sullivan, together with Dr WG Robinson, opened the New York School of Embalming in 1884 and a year later was again involved in the embalming of a president, this time President Ulysses Grant (see previous information on Clarke's career). He then entered and left a long list of employers. In 1887, he was in Chicago when the anarchists who had bombed the police in 1886, killing and wounding police and civilians, were condemned to die. One exploded a dynamite cap in his mouth in jail and the others were hung. He prepared all bodies and was praised for his plastic surgery on the “mad bomber”.
Sullivan continued his erratic employment or work habits, working for one firm, quitting, and then working for another. By 1891, he was again a lecturer/demonstrator, this time for the Egyptian Chemical Company. By 1892, he reached the height of his career as a lecturer, speaking, and teaching in more cities to larger classes than anyone previously had. He was expelled from the State Funeral Directors convention in 1893 in St Louis, Missouri, and a resolution was passed to forbid ever inviting his return. Sullivan settled in Chicago and opened a school of embalming. Local papers relate his arrest there together with a female companion (not his wife) on charges of adultery and wife and child desertion. When he finally settled the charges he underwent a cure for alcoholism and resumed teaching in a succession of short-lived appointments at various schools.
In 1900, the OK Buckhout Company of Michigan, a manufacturer of embalming chemicals, had Charles A Renouard under contract to lecture, and sent him to London, England, to present a 3-week course of instruction that was very well received. Renouard returned home to attend similar engagements in the United States. The Buckhout Company had to find someone to continue the successful course of instruction in England, and the position was offered to Sullivan, who immediately accepted. Sullivan began teaching in London on October 8, 1900, a career that would extend to 1903.31
He lectured throughout the British Isles and helped to organize the British Embalmers Society as well as a journal entitled to British Embalmer.
He related that when Queen Victoria died in 1901, he was consulted about the possibility of embalming her. He recommended against it since it was impossible to guarantee perfect results. When he returned to the United States, he purchased an embalming school in St Louis, Missouri, but the venture proved unprofitable. He then moved to Denver and Salt Lake City and eventually back to St Louis, where he died. Sullivan wrote hundreds of articles plus eight books, taught thousands to embalm, and probably received more gifts from his classes than any other teacher before or since his time.
Increase in embalming schools: Some early “graduates” of embalming courses of instruction gave up regular employment at an undertaking establishment to provide embalming service to a number of undertaker who had no staff member trained to embalm. This is how the terms embalmer to the trade or trade embalmer originated.
Schools of instruction in embalming increased in number and activity by the beginning of the 20th century. Many manufacturers of embalming chemicals entered into the business of teaching embalming to maintain and increase the market for their products. Although the repair of injuries to the dead caused by disease or trauma had been dealt with since Egyptian times, it was not until 1912 that a systematic treatment for such cases was developed by a New York City embalmer, Joel E Crandall (1878–1942). From this time on the schools of embalming slowly began to adopt instruction in this special phase of embalming treatment. Today, the subject area is commonly referred to as restorative art. It would be impossible to list in this text every personality who became an embalming professor or every school that was established, but a few should be mentioned.
Carl Lewis Barnes: Born into a family that operated an undertaking establishment in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Barnes (1872–1927) studied medicine in Indiana, opened an embalming school there, and moved it to Chicago. He manufactured embalming chemicals, wrote many books and articles on the subject, and had the largest chain of fixed location schools in history in New York, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, and Dallas. While serving overseas as a medical colonel in the US Army in World War I, his business failed. He never reopened the schools, continuing the practice of medicine until his death.
Albert H Worsham: Worsham (1868–1939) attended Barnes school and was on the faculty from 1903 to 1911 when he opened his own school in Chicago, with his wife Laura and brother Robert as faculty members. He lectured widely and was noted principally for contributing to the early foundation of postmortem plastic surgery.
Howard S Eckels: Eckels (1865–1937) was a manufacturer of embalming chemicals and the founder of Eckels College of Embalming in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (The school and chemical plant were in the same building, which was not on uncommon arrangement.) Eckels wrote many articles and books, was successfully sued for plagiarism, and was not adverse to engaging in prolonged debates in the press. After his death, his son John managed the school well into the post-World War II period when it closed after a period of affiliation with Temple University.
William Peter Hohenschuh: Born in Iowa City, Iowa, the son of an undertaker, Hohenschuh (1858–1920) took over the family business upon the death of his father and began to teach embalming, which he had learned by correspondence from Auguste Renouard in the mid-1870s. Hohenschuh was active in the Iowa State Association and was elected president of the National Funeral Directors Association. He operated an embalming school in Chicago and, in 1900, in partnership with Dr William S Carpenter (1871–1944), opened the Hohenschuh–Carpenter School of Embalming in Des Moines, Iowa. He also operated a funeral home. In 1930, Dr Carpenter moved the school to St Louis and merged it with the Moribund American college of Embalming owned by FA Sullivan. After Dr Carpenter's death his daughter Helen Craig and her son Golden Craig operated the school as well as the American Academy in New York City. This continued well into the post-World War II period.
Clarence G Strub: Born in Iowa March 1, 1906, Strub attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and the Hohenschuh–Carpenter College of Embalming in Des Moines, Iowa. He became an instructor at Honenschuh in 1929. In 1930, the school was moved to St Louis where it merged with the American College of Embalming and operated under the name of the St Louis College of Mortuary Sciences. In 1934, he became a member of the staff of the Undertaker's Supply Company of Chicago and conducted clinics and demonstrations throughout the United States and Canada. He taught embalming and funeral management at the 32University of Minnesota and the Wisconsin Institute of Mortuary Science and was the director of research for the Royal Bond Chemical Company for many years.
His greatest contributions to embalming lie in his ability to write clearly and simply, explaining embalming theory and practices. During his career, he published well over 1,000 articles, as well as many teaching outlines and quiz compendia. His little text, The Principles of Restorative Art, was the true prototype of all present-day texts on the subject. He also authored the monumental textbook, Principles and Practice of Embalming, published by LG “Darko” Fredericks, which became the standard embalming text used by most colleges of mortuary science. Strub also wrote several technical movies such as the Conquest of Jaundice and The Eye Bank Story, was well as many purely children's stories and movies. He was the architect of the Eye Bank System in Iowa, which set the national pattern, as well as the curator of the state of Iowa's anatomical donation program, he died in Iowa city, Iowa on August 6, 1974.
Women embalmers: Women as well as men were trained as embalmers and not only practiced embalming but founded tools of instruction. Among these women were Mrs EG Bernard of Newark, New Jersey, who founded the Bernhard School of Embalming; Madame Lina Odou, who founded the Odou Embalming Institute in New York City; (Fig. 1.16); and Lena R Simmons, who founded and operated the Simmons School of Embalming in Syracuse, New York, until her son Baxter took over the management.
Mortuary Colleges, as known today, are relatively recent in origin. The development of mortuary education has followed the general pattern common to all professional fields. It emerged slowly from a period in which knowledge was transmitted from preceptor to student by means of observation and informal discussion to its present academic status.
zoom view
Fig. 1.16: Anatomy class at Odou Institute of Embalming, New York Circa 1900 (Professor C Odou at center of group).
A system for national accreditation of mortuary schools was first introduced in1927 by the Conference of Funeral service Examining Boards, a national association of state licensing boards. Higher standards governing qualifications of faculty, the curriculum, and teaching facilities were established and enforced.
The first teachers institute was held in Cincinnati in the spring of 1946. On November 8 and 9, 1947, the second teachers institute was held at the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science at which time the first curriculum in embalming was adopted (Fig. 1.17). The committee chairman was Professor Ronald F Hannum of the Cleveland College of Mortuary Science. A basic course content in anatomy was also adopted. This committee was chaired by Dr Emory S James of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. On November 10, in Pittsburgh, the National Association of Colleges of Mortuary Science met and adopted what became the Morticians’ Oath, still administered today to graduates of mortuary science.
Early embalming reports concerning arterial injection indicated some concern for special treatment of the trunk viscera. Most such treatments consisted of removal, treatment, and replacement of viscera in the trunk cavity together with some preservative material, either powdered or liquid.
zoom view
Fig. 1.17: Educators from across the United States gathered for the Second Teachers. Institute held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 8 and 9, 1947 at this meeting the first curriculum in anatomy and embalming established and the Mortician's Oath was adopted.Courtesy: The Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
33Other reports, such as those of the Gannal–Sucquet era, indicate dependence for total preservation solely upon the arterial injection unaccompanied by any special treatment for the trunk cavities. Gabriel Clauderus had advocated preservation based upon introduction of his preservative chemical into the trunk cavity followed by immersion of the entire body in the preservative.
It was not until the mid-1870s that a “modern” system of treatment for the cavities was designed. The inventor of the trocar, Samuel Rodgers (listing Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco as his residence) secured two patents for the trocar, one in 1878 and the second in 1880. The 1878 patent described the trocar much as it exists today. The 1880 patent was issued for a system of embalming that consisted of introduction of his trocar, thrust through a single point in the navel into an the organs of the trunk to distribute a preservative fluid throughout the trunk viscera. The simplicity of this treatment and its modest success made it appealing to men who, for whatever reason, did not adopt arterial embalming, which required greater knowledge of anatomy and surgical skill. The inevitable result was a confrontation between “belly punchers” (cavity treatment advocates) and “throat cutters” r (arterial embalmers) concerning the merits of their respective means of preservation.
It slowly became evident that neither system was always completely successful and that combination of the two systems, arterial injection followed by cavity treatment, offered the greatest promise of embalming success. Although Rodgers did not mention aspiration prior to injection of preservative chemicals in his process, Auguste Renouard did specifically recommend this in his Undertaker's Manual. Rodgers’ method of a single-entrance opening into the trunk cavity with a brilliant contept not followed by all his contemporary “authorities”. Espy and Taylor's books of embalming instruction, for example, advocated multiple (three to four) points of insertion through the trunk wall for the trocar. Rodgers formulated an embalming preservative chemical named Alekton, which was believed to have phenol as its principal preservative. He also recommended cavity treatment followed by hypodermic injections utilizing his trocar, inserted into the limbs of the corpse.
Since, the introduction of arterial injection of the blood vessels in the late 17th century no other system of corpse preservation explored had ever been even seriously utilized. In 1884, a British physician, Dr BW Richardson, devised what he termed needle embalming. The process consisted of inserting a trocar (the needle), such as Rodger's invention, at the medial corner of the eye socket and forcing it into the brain area, where the injection process was repeated. After removal of the trocar from the brain area, cavity treatment, aspiration, and injection were carried out. This process was most often referred to as the eye process. Rodgers in his early patent had proposed insertion of his trocar through the nose to inject preservative chemicals into the brain area but did not suggest that this process would preserve the entire body as Richardson contented. It eventually was to be called the—nasal process. Professor Sullivan, ever alert for any new procedure to interest his students, adopted Richardson's eye process and exploited its simplicity to the maximum.
Carl Barnes offered a variation of the procedure by inserting the trocar through the neck and into the brain via the foramen magnum. TB Barnes, his brother and school instructor associate, inserted the trocar between dorsal vertebrae into the spinal canal. In this method, Dr Eliab Meyers drilled a hole through the center of the vertex of the skull, permitting direct access for a small trocar into the superior sagittal sinus. The process, regardless of point of access, is said to have delivered the preservative chemical eventually into blood vessels within the cranium and then to the rest of the body.
A dramatic test demonstration of the process is both described and illustrated in Barne's textbook, The Art and Science of Embalming. A severed head of a dissection room subject had trocars inserted into the brain area through the eye socket route. Rubber tubes connected the carotid arteries and jugular veins with collecting bottles. As fluid was injected through the trocars into the brain area, fluid flowed into the collecting bottles via the carotid arteries and jugular veins. The process achieved moderate popularity until about 1905 when it became extinct. Not all teachers of embalming were advocates of it, and JH Clarke was a vigorous critic.
A variation of the process was the short-lived attempt to insert the trocar into the left ventricle of the heart and inject the arterial system. The great difficulty encountered in positively locating the left ventricle quickly discouraged this procedure.
Professionalism in Embalming
Toward the end of the 19th century and on into the 20th century a number of events were to occur that would accelerate embalming toward the level of professionalism. A convergence of two movements became apparent about 341897, with the appearance of ads by embalming fluid companies stating that their fluid contained formalin. For some years, there had been arguments to eliminate arsenic and other poisons from inclusion in embalming fluid formulas for the same medicolegal reason that the French prohibited arsenic in 1846 and bichloride of mercury in 1848. Now that a powerful disinfectant, formalin, was available and reasonably priced, the opportunity to eliminate poisonous chemicals was at hand. The state of Michigan led the way in 1901 and was followed by other states.
The second movement was to require regulations for both licensing and governing those who practiced embalming, and in 1893–1894 the state of Virginia became the first state to do so. Formalin content fluids were not a total blessing and were not as favorably received as might have been expected. Embalmers of the period were unaccustomed to the very different characteristics of the new preservative. For example, bodies embalmed with arsenic were said to have been relatively supple, making dressing and positioning relatively easy. Many of the poisonous chemicals had bleaching qualities and left the body quite white. Only a few left any undesirable coloration, such as those reported to contain copper, which tended to produce a bluish color in the skin. Then too, little or no problem was reportedly encountered to the penetration of all the body tissues, with or without blood drainage. There was also the proven ability of such poisonous chemicals to preserve the body tissues. There were, of course, some negatives such as the possible absorption of poisonous chemicals through the embalmer's unprotected skin, various skin irritations, and thickened and cracked fingernails.
The embalmer, beginning to experiment with the formalin-based embalming fluids had to learn that he must remove the blood in all cases and began to use low-formalin-content or nonformalin fluids to wash the blood out before injection of the preservative formalin-based solutions. He also learned that he had to position the body properly before injection and the hardening effects of formalin or he would encounter serious problems later in trying to properly position hands together. To his astonishment, the embalmer also discovered that formalin reacted with the bile pigments present in the skin of jaundiced bodies to produce an unsightly green-colored skin.
The opponents of formalin fluids were highly critical of the formaldehyde fumes, which irritated mucous membranes, claiming these effects were more dangerous to health than the poisonous chemicals. Reason and science prevailed and the embalming fluid formulas were improved to overcome most of the early problems. With the eventual transfer of the site of embalming from the family home bedroom to the funeral home preparation room, proper ventilation tended to eliminate most of the irritation problem. Chemicals became more diverse. For example, different formulas were developed for specific uses, such as arterial and cavity, preinjection, coinjection, and for special purposes as in decomposing cases. The delivery of embalming fluids in concentrated form, to be added to water to create the desired dilution strength, was a distinct contrast to the former embalming chemical packaging, which was delivered in containers already combined with the water ready to inject. Thus, the embalmer had to become more experienced and intelligent in the mixing of the formalin embalming solution than he had formerly.
Utilization of New Devices
Over the years of embalming in bedrooms of the home of the deceased, little in the way t > f improvements was instituted in injection pumps or aspirating devices. With the transfer of the majority of embalming preparation to the funeral home, however, new devices could be used. In the last quarter of the 19th century, most embalming pumps or injectors were based on the gravity bowl, the handpump, or the rubber bulb syringe. The gravity bowl was simply a container suspended above the body and connected to the arterial tube by a length of rubber tubing. The height of the bowl above the body determined the pressure. Its main advantage was that it did not require the constant pumping by the embalmer and, therefore, left hands free to perform other tasks. The handpump could produce either pressure or vacuum for injection or aspiration into or from a glass container.
When the preparation of the body was moved to the funeral home, water pressure was used to create suction to aspirate. Special aspirators, such as the Penberthy, Worsham, and Slaughter, generated suction by water pressure and were made to attach to preparation room sink faucets, connected by rubber tubing to the trocar. Later in the 1950s, special electric motor-driven aspirators were devised and were found to overcome the aggravation encountered by low-water pressure during high-water-use periods. Most communities today have requirements relating to the need for preventing suction of aspirated material into the water system.35
Falcon Electric Embalmer
At a New York state convention in 1914, a battery-powered electric pump, the Falcon Electric Embalmer for injecting embalming chemicals, was demonstrated but was not widely adopted. Some new instruments devised to simplify or improve certain embalming procedures were developed in the 1920s and 1930s. A new method of jaw closure was devised involving “barbed tracks” driven into the mandible and maxilla by a spring-propelled hammer. Wires attached to the “tacks” were then twisted together to sure the desired degree of jaw closure. A plastic, threaded, screw-like device called the trocar button became the most useful waterproof sea l for trocar punctures, bullet wounds, and even for intravenous needle punctures (when surgically enlarged). A metal dispensing device that was attached directly to any standard 16-ounce bottle of cavity fluid (by screwing it into the bottle opening in place of the cap) simplified cavity fluid injection.
The dispenser was connected to the trocar by a length of rubber hose and injection was accomplished by gravity after the cavity fluid bottle was elevated and inverted. It was not until the mid-1930s that electric-powered injection machines were available and in use. Some were simply electric motors with fittings to produce pressure or vacuum-connected to suitable containers by rubber tubing. In 1937, the Slaughter Company developed an all metal fluid injection tank equipped with a pressure gauge; in 1938, the Flowmaster electric-powered injection machine was announced; in 1939, the Frigid Fluid Company developed a pressure injector consisting of a metal container for holding embalming fluid complete with exit connection with shut off and carbon dioxide gas cylinder to create the necessary pressure to inject the fluid. In mid-1939, the Turner Company announced the availability of the Porti Boy, which was to become the all-time most popular injection machine. Several improvements over the years included a pulsator device, a larger fluid tank, and the ability to produce extreme high-pressure injections. By the 1960s, extreme high-pressure injection machines such as the Sawyer were available and in use.
Availability of More Materials
With the end of World War II, metal and other materials became available to produce various new embalming devices. The concept of utilizing externally generated agitation to assist in blood removal became popular. Some embalming table had such pulsating devices built in as an integral part of the structure. Other pulsating devices were devised to be attached to existing operating tables or were handheld devices to be applied to the body over the course of the major blood vessels. Disillusionment with this development came after a short period of the use. The vibrations produced by such devices made it impossible to keep instruments, and even the body itself, from sliding downward toward the foot of the table.
Another innovation was the development of a conventional embalming fluid by the Switzer Corporation of Cleveland that contained a large quantity of fluorescent dye. The dye was to act as a tracer or indicator of the degree of circulation or penetration of the embalming fluid when viewed under an ultraviolet light illuminator furnished with the embalming fluid. Although the system did indeed disclose the extent of the distribution of the embalming chemical and its fluorescent dye, it never was proof positive that area of the body beneath the skin was thoroughly embalmed.
In the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and other major disasters such as airline crashes, earthquakes, mudslides, and building collapses, a search was instituted for some new means of quickly processing (preserving) huge number of dead. Over the years, different means of processing (preserving) the victims of such tragedies were devised, tested and found unsuitable for a variety of reasons. Experiments were conducted with processes utilizing ultrasound, radiation, atomic bombardment, and ultracold. No process tried seemed to be capable of preserving a tremendous number of bodies in a brief period. The search continues!
It is astonishing what has been achieved in the embalming field in nearly 5,000 years of growth of knowledge, skill, and experience. Naturally, what the future holds is unknown, but those working in the field feel it will be as exciting and rewarding as the past millennia.
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