Skip to main content
A professor demonstrates a synthetic cadaver to a pair of graduate students.

In 1956, Alma Merrick Helms announced that she was bound for Stanford University. But she would not be attending classes. After learning of a shortage of women’s bodies for medical students, the semiretired actress had filled out forms to donate her remains to the medical college upon her death.

Susan Lawrence

As historians of medicine, Susan Lawrence, professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Susan Lederer, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have long been familiar with the tragic tales of 18th- and 19th-century grave robbing. Medical students had to snatch unearthed bodies if they wanted corpses to dissect.

But there was little discussion of the thousands of Americans in the 20th century who wanted an alternative to traditional burial and gave their bodies to medical education and research.

So they decided to research this especially physical form of philanthropy: people who literally give themselves away. Read the full article on The Conversation.

UT is a member of The Conversation, an independent source for news articles and informed analysis written by the academic community and edited by journalists for the general public. Through our partnership, we seek to provide a better understanding of the important work of our faculty.



Lindsey Owen McBee (865-974-6375,