Ep. 358 STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers with Mary Roach

Find out what happens when a body is donated to science and how cadavers have benefitted the living through various types of research.

My guest Mary Roach is the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers including STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, which has sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 17 different languages. She’ll tell us why she wrote this book, how she did the research for it and what she learned from this project. Her stories range from macabre to heartbreaking in this look at the “other side” of death that we rarely explore: how the deceased benefit the living. Learn more about Mary’s work at her website:


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This episode includes:

  • What drew Mary to write about cadavers
  • The surprising fact that this book sold over 1 million copies when it was first published in 2003 in our death-phobic society
  • What it was like to do research for this book
  • Which experiences were most challenging for Mary
  • How cadaver researchers cope with the trauma of witnessing human carnage
  • Why cadavers are our superheroes and the contributions they have made to the betterment of humankind
  • A touching ceremony Mary witnessed at the UCSF gross anatomy lab
  • What is a “beating heart” cadaver
  • How cadaver research has changed over the years

Links mentioned in this episode:

  • Order All the Flowers of the Mountain by Christina Holbrook here (and thank you!)

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