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Modern Embalming, Circulation of Fluids, and the Voyage through the Human Arterial System: Carl L. Barnes and the Culture of Immortality in America

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By considering the work of American embalmer, lawyer, and physician Carl Lewis Barnes (1872-1927), this paper analyzes the emergence of modern embalming in America. Barnes experimented with and exhibited the techniques by which embalming fluids travelled into the most remote cavities of the human body. In this sense, modern embalmers based their skills and methods on experimental medicine, turning the anatomy of blood vessels, physiology of circulation, and composition of blood into a circuit that allowed embalming fluids to move throughout the corpse. Embalmers in the late 19th century took ownership of the laws of hydrodynamics and the physiology of blood circulation to market their fluids and equipment, thus playing the role of physiologists of death, performing and demonstrating physiological experiments with dead bodies.


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