St George’s, University of London, London, UK
At the 19th International Conference of the ISP in 2018, in Dalian, the history of the first ten years of The Journal of Plastination was presented, from the publication in 1987 of Volume 1, Issue 1 of what was then called ‘The Journal of the International Society of Plastination’, up until Volume 12 Issue 2 in 1997. In this article, those early years are summarized, before discussing the development of the journal and the leading figures involved with it over the following decade. The second decade culminated in the publication of the plastinators’ ‘bible’ in 2007, the eighty-page, single-issue Volume 22 “cookbook” which gave detailed instructions for plastination with all the available methods (Biodur, North Carolina, Dow/Corcoran, VisDocta, and Hoffen), for silicone (cold-temperature and room-temperature), epoxy, and polyester plastination. The Editor from 1987-2000 was Gilles Grondin; Bob Henry was Interim Editor for Volume 16 (2001), a single issue which was dedicated to the memory of Dr Harmon Bickley; Robert Reed Jr took over as Editor from 2002. During this decade, the journal continued to develop and thrive, with a glossy cover complete with a colored photograph, and improved print and image quality, including colored images, inside. The decade ended in spectacular style, with the front cover of Volume 22 (2007) bearing a striking photograph of Gunther von Hagens’ plastinated ‘Rearing Horse with Rider’.
Philip J Adds, Department of Anatomy, St George’s, University of London, London, UK. email@example.com
The Journal of Plastination was first published in 1987 under the name of ‘The Journal of the International Society for Plastination’. The last issue under that name appeared as Volume 23 in 2008. There was then a gap in publication from 2009-2011; the first issue of the new incarnation of The Journal of Plastination was published in 20012 as Volume 24, and covered the years 2009-2012. This brief survey of the second decade in the life of the Journal will highlight some of the major developments in its evolution, and the first contributions from some notable figures in the history of the ISP and the development of plastination as a global force in research and education.
The first decade of the Journal has previously been reviewed by Adds (2018), however, in order to provide some background and context, and to show how the Journal has developed over the years, some notable achievements of the first ten years are briefly summarized below.
The First Ten Years: 1987-1997
Volume 1, Number 1, under the distinguished Editorship of Harmon Bickley, appeared in January 1987. Papers published in the first year were mainly concerned with technical aspects of plastination, and included contributions from such notable figures as Gunter von Hagens and Robert Henry. The appearance of the printed hard copy was quite basic, with monochrome photographs and line drawings (Fig.1).
Volume 3, in 1989, brought with it the first Editorial Board, abstracts from the 4th ISP meeting and the first Interim Meeting, and a change of Editor, with Bob Henry taking over from Harmon Bickley, who became Executive Director of the Society. Notable contributions to Volume 3 included the first two articles from Carlos Baptista.
In Volume 4 (1990) a paper from Lane entitled “Sectional anatomy: standardized methodology” pre-empted the Visible Human Project by four years, and anticipated the huge interest in sectional anatomy engendered by new techniques of medical imaging (Fig. 2). Note that by now, images were being printed in colour.
Volume 9, published in 1999, brought the first Letter from the President (Bob Henry) and Letter from the Editor. Dale Unger’s Editor’s letter contained a request that still resonates today: “I challenge each plastinator to contribute one article yearly to our journal and help us advance our organizational goals. As we learn, we grow”.
The Next Ten Years: 1998-2007
The second decade of the Journal began in fine style. Volume 13, published in 1998 under the Editorship of Gilles Grondin, continued to expound the core values of The Journal of Plastination, with papers on the past, present, and future of plastination (Fig. 3).
Papers in Volume 13(1) included a paper by Regis Olry on “A Short history of vascular injections, with special reference to the heart vessels” (Fig. 4), the first paper from China (Tianzhong et al., “A study on the preservation of exhumed mummies by plastination”), and the first contribution from Mircea-Constantin Sora, highlighting the potential of sheet plastination in research: “Plastination of three-dimensional brachial plexus with P40” (Sora, 1998).
Volume 14, in 1999, carried the first contribution from another notable figure in the ISP, Ming Zhang: “A technique for preserving the subarachnoid space and its contents in a natural state with different colours” (An & Zhang, 1999). Volume 14(1) also contained evidence of controversy surrounding the perceived poor quality of some Conference presentations and contributions to the Journal. The Editor, Gilles Grondin, wrote: “we need to get a handle on what gets accepted […] in our journal … [the] Journal and conferences are showcases for the Society. These should exude excellence, not calamity…” “…I have receive[d] emails concerning a number of presentations at Trois Rivieres that were … not related to plastination [and] of lousy quality”.
Grondin then outlined the review procedure that all submissions to the Journal undergo before publication, and concluded: “In my opinion, the members of the EB always did their best and I am sure they will keep on doing so to ensure that a paper published in your Journal will respond to the criteria of a scientific paper… But we cannot guarantee the complete exactitude of everything included in an article.
This is an important point which is equally relevant today. We rely on the integrity of the authors and the expertise of the members of the EB and other reviewers who generously give up their time to review all new submissions. To address this issue, a “Statement of Publication and Research Ethics” was added to the Instructions for Authors in 2017.
Volume 14(1) also contained a fascinating survey of the first seventeen issues of the journal: “The Journal of the International Society for Plastination: assessment and future prospects” (Olry, 1999). Olry writes: “The aim of this study was to assess its evolution through its first seventeen issues by analyzing different data of the full-length papers.” From 1987 to 1999, there had been 13 volumes, with a total of 17 issues, under four successive Editors: Harmon Bickley (Vols. 1-2), Robert Henry (Vols. 3-7), Dale Ulmer (Vols. 8-11), and Gilles Grondin (Vol. 12-). Olry then analyzed the papers that had been published to date (Fig. 5):
By way of an up-to-date comparison, Volume 34(1) included 5 full-length publications, with an average of 18.6 references (range 11-24) each, including an average of 3.2 (0-9) taken from previous issues of the Journal. Olry went on to analyze the origins of the papers published, showing the gradual globalization of the Journal’s contributors (Fig. 6).
There was a noticeably greater range from Volume 10 (1996) onwards, with Oceania and Asia contributing over 50% of the contributors to Volume 10(1). It may be significant that the 8th ISP Conference was held in Brisbane, Australia in July 1996, leading to a spike in contributions from the southern hemisphere.
Olry (1999) went on to say that “the number of papers is scarcely sufficient to publish two issues a year” and suggests that “each member of the society should plan at least one manuscript every two or three years”. He concluded that “the Journal of the International Society for Plastination is establishing its pedigree slowly but surely.”
Into the New Millennium
Volume 15, published in June 2000, was a single-issue volume. In fact, as Olry (1999) had highlighted, publishable papers were in short supply, and single-issue volumes continued throughout the second decade; it was not until 2013 that another double-issue volume appeared. On the positive side, the increasingly global reach of the Journal is demonstrated by the geographical range of contributions: Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Austria, and Canada, and a second paper from China. Zhong et al., in “The history of plastination in China”, described the rapid progress made since the introduction of plastination to China only three years previously: “[m]any thousands of specimens ranging from small animals to whole human bodies …are now used in 20 Chinese schools and universities” (Fig. 7).
While Zheng et al. looked to the future, Olry (2000) surveyed the past history of anatomical models in the rather alliteratively titled “Wax, Wooden, Ivory, Cardboard, Bronze, Fabric, Plaster, Rubber and Plastic Anatomical Models: Praiseworthy Precursors of Plastinated Specimens” (Fig. 8).
While the Journal rightly concentrates on plastination and its applications to research and education, it is important that the historical context of plastination in the development of anatomical representation should not be overlooked. Plastination, after all, has revolutionised how anatomy is perceived globally, and it is a sobering
thought that Auzoux’s papier mâché anatomical models, first produced in 1827, were still being produced up until the 1980s, so they actually overlapped the introduction of plastination.
The cover of Volume 16 (2001) featured a photograph of Harmon Bickley, the “the father of plastination in the USA” and first Editor of the Journal, who had recently passed away. This special cover began the tradition of featuring tributes following the death of significant figures in plastination that continues to this day (Fig. 9).
Volume 16 was also marked by a change of presentation, with a larger, clearer font and improved image quality (Fig. 10). The “Guidelines for Authors” section was revised and expanded, and key words after the abstract were introduced. First papers from Rafael Latorre and Octavio Lopez-Abors (Latorre, 2001), and Ameed Raoof (Raoof, 2001) appeared.
The 11th ISP Conference took place in Puerto Rico in July 2002, and Volume 17, under new Editor Robert Reed, carried a report of the conference, showing that a plastinator’s life is not all hard work (“Plastinators in Paradise”, Barnes, 2002) (Fig. 11). To quote: “It’s hard to pay attention to ‘fixation, dehydration, impregnation and curing’ when the palm trees are swaying, the waves are lapping on the shore, and the salsa beat is throbbing in the background…” (Barnes, 2002). Volume 17 also carried four original manuscripts, which included the first contribution to the journal from the late Lance Nash.
Volume 18 (2003) featured six original manuscripts describing research into various aspects of technical, clinical, and educational applications of plastination.
Mehra et al. (2003) proposed an alternative to conventional plastination by immersing dehydrated wet specimens in Quickfix®, an everyday adhesive, available cheaply in India (http://wembleysquickfix.com/products-2/quickfix/). While this was not plastination in its true sense, it did provide a method of producing dry, non-toxic, lightweight, durable preserved specimens without the need for expensive refrigeration and vacuum equipment (Fig.12).
The quest for “low-cost” alternatives to the standard plastination technique is a recurring theme in papers published in the Journal (and elsewhere: a Google Scholar search for the terms “low-cost” AND “plastination” in the title or abstract yielded 354 results). Unsurprisingly, given the high initial outlay involved in setting up a new plastination facility, papers on this theme have all (with one exception) come from countries that are classed as low- or middle-income according to OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) estimates (Wellcome.org, no date).
To date, eight such papers have been published in the Journal, from India (Mehra et al., 2003; Singh et al., 2015), Sudan (Satte et al., 2017), Bangladesh (Sultana et al., 2019; Islam & Sultana, 2021), Nigeria (Owolabi et al., 2019); Brazil (Zerlotini et al., 2020), and the USA (Kumro et al., 2013). The Journal of Plastination has an important role in disseminating these new techniques around the world, particularly in low-income countries where access to expensive new technologies may be beyond the reach of many institutions.
The 9th Biennial Meeting of the ISP was held in Murcia, Spain, hosted by Prof Rafael Latorre, and Volume 19 (2004) contained abstracts from the Meeting and a report of the ISP business meeting. The President, Andreas Weiglein, reported that under the Editorship of Robert Reed and Bob Henry, the quality of the Journal had improved. In the absence of the Editor-in-Chief (Robert Reed), Bob Henry stated that new reviewers were needed, and encouraged potential new reviewers to nominate themselves. He went on to urge authors to submit papers for future issues. It was also suggested by Bob Henry that a special issue of the Journal should be published “dedicated entirely to the different plastination techniques, to have a standard procedure for new plastinators to use”. This proposal was met with a favorable response: among other advantages, it was suggested that such an issue would be cited frequently, thus raising the impact of the Journal. It would be another three years before this germ of an idea achieved its goal.
The next issue, Volume 20 (2005), contained only four original articles, plus abstracts from the 7th and 8th Interim Meetings (Shanghai and Nanjing, China, June 2001, and Lake Ohrid, Macedonia, July 2005, respectively). In his “Letter from the Editor”, Robert Reed stressed the importance of new submissions for the survival of the Journal, and again urged those who submitted abstracts to the ISP meetings to write them up as full manuscripts. Many abstracts that are presented at these meetings are never followed up as full-length articles. This is a perennial problem. To give a contemporary example, of the thirty-six presentations at the 2022 online ISP Conference, only five (so far) have subsequently been submitted for publication. Dr Reed also commented on the shortage of reviewers, and asked readers for new volunteers or nominations for membership of the Editorial Board.
This problem became even more acute with the single-issue Volume 21, published in 2006 with only three original manuscripts, plus the minutes and abstracts from the 13th ISP Conference in Vienna, Austria. Furthermore, in his Editor’s Letter, Robert Reed stated that he had not received a single nomination for the Editorial Board. At this point in its history, the Journal appeared to be struggling to survive.
In 2007, however, the projected special issue that was planned in 2004 was finally published: the “cookbook” of plastination methods, Volume 22. The cover featured a magnificent image of von Hagen’s “Rearing Horse with Rider” on the cover (Fig. 13). This was a confident statement of intent: the issue, 83 pages long, contained twelve invited articles giving definitive protocols for all the different plastination techniques, written by leading experts in the field. The cover laid down the gauntlet to plastinators round the world: this is what is achievable with the technique, given time, expertise, and resources.
Volume 22 was a fitting way to end the Journal’s second decade. It had been a struggle to maintain publication, though through the wise editorship of Robert Reed and Bob Henry, the quality of submissions had improved. The printing, too, was better: the cover was glossy, and the text was bolder and easier to read. The lack of submissions, however, suggests that the journal faced an uncertain future as it entered its third decade.
Adds PJ. 2018: Remembering the past, but looking to the future. The first 10 years of the Journal of Plastination. J Plast 30(2):8-14 https://doi.org/10.56507/FWXP2281
An P-C, Zhang M. 1999: A technique for preserving the subarachnoid space and its contents in a natural state with different colours. J Int Soc Plastination (14)1: 12-17.
Barnes 2002: Plastinators in Paradise: the 11th ISP Conference in Puerto Rico. J Int Soc Plastination 17: 3.
Grondin G, Olry R. 1998: Dissection and plastination of the human cerebral dura mater with the base of skull. J Int Soc Plastination 13(1): 23-25.
Islam R, Sultana N. 2021: Preservation of musculoskeletal specimens of goat by the Elnady technique: an innovative low-cost alternative to plastination. J Plastination [Online] https://journal.plastination.org/articles/preservation-of-musculoskeletal-specimens-of-goat-by-the-elnady-technique-an-innovative-low-cost-alternative-to-plastination/
Kumro SL, Crocker AV, Powell RL. 2013: Injection plastination: a low-tech, inexpensive method for silicone preservation of small vertebrates. J Plastination 25(1): 12-17.
Lane A. 1990: Sectional anatomy: standardized methodology. J Int Soc Plastination 4: 16-22
Latorre R, Vazquez JM, Gil F, Ramirez G, Lopez-Albors O, Orenes M, Martinez-Gomariz F, Arenciba A. 2001: Teaching anatomy of the distal equine thoracic limb with plastinated slices. J Int Soc Plastination 16: 23-30.
Mehra S, Choudhary R, Tuli A. 2003: Dry preservation of cadaveric hearts: an innovative trial. J Int Soc Plastination 18:34-36.
Olry R. 1998: Short history of vascular injections, with special reference to the heart vessels. J Int Soc Plastination 13(1): 7-11.
Olry R. 1999: The Journal of the International Society for Plastination: Assessment and future prospects. J Int Soc Plastination 14(1): 25-27
Olry R. Wax, wooden, ivory, cardboard, bronze, fabric, plaster, rubber, and plastic anatomical models: praiseworthy precursors of plastinated specimens. J Int Soc Plastination 15(1): 30-35.
Owolabi JO, Adeteye OV, Fabiyi OS, Olatunji SY, Olanrewaju JA, Obaoye A. 2019: Comparative study of the outcome of forced impregnation of whole brains at cold temperature, and an alternative diffusion/impregnation process. J Plastination 31(1): 19 -24.
Raoof A. Using a room-temperature plastination technique in assessing prenatal changes in the human spinal cord. J Int Soc Plastination 16:5-8
Satte MS, Ali TO, Mohamed AHY. 2017: The use of vacuum forced impregnation of gum arabic solution in biological tissues for long-term preservation. J Plastination 29 (1): 19-25.
Singh NN, Chaudhary, Nair S, Kumar S. 2015: Non-perishable museum specimens: redefined plastination technique. J Plastination 27(2):20-24.
Sora M-C. 1989: Plastination of three-dimensional brachial plexus with P40. J Int Soc Plastination 13(1):12-14.
Sultana N, Khan MZI, Amin T, Jahan MR, Uddin I. 2019: Preservation of internal organs of goat by an alternative method to plastination. J Plastination 31(1): 14 -18.
Tianzhong Z, Xuegui Y, Jingren L, Kerming Z. 1998: A study on the preservation of exhumed mummies by plastination. J lnt Soc Plastination 13(1): 20-22.
Wellcome.org (no date) https://wellcome.org/grant-funding/guidance/low-and-middle-income-countries (accessed 15/1/2023).
Zerlotini, MF, Paula TAR, Ramos ML, Silva FFR, Santana ML, Figueira MP, Silva LC, Silva VHD, Bustamante LRC. 2020: Establishment and operationalization of a low budget plastination laboratory in the Veterinary Morphology section of the Federal University of Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil. J Plastination 32(1): 8-17.
Zhong ZT, Xuegui Y, Ling C, Jingren L. 2000: The history of plastination in China. J Int Soc Plastination 15(1): 25-29.