When Joy Reidenberg’s mother saw her leaving for work one morning in jeans and a t-shirt, she asked her daughter to change into something more formal. Surely, her mother explained, Joy’s patients at the hospital would expect and appreciate professional attire. “Mom,” Joy said, “my patients are dead, remember? They’re not going to care.”
Reidenberg uses human and animal cadavers and skeletons to teach anatomy to medical students at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. On Saturday, September 25, she joined a panel of scientists at the New York Hall of Science for Maker Faire (NYC) 2010 — a festival-style celebration of hands-on human innovation that attracts scientists, artists, geeks, nerds, hackers, jewelers, knitters, inventors, builders and all kinds of curious minds. Each scientist on the panel gave a brief presentation about their research.
Reidenberg spoke of dissecting giant squid, whales and giraffes for a TV documentary about nature’s giants, co-hosted by Richard Dawkins. She explained that she doesn’t really see people’s clothes and skin; she sees right through them to the skeletons underneath. “I know that under every bump and lump there’s a bone or something causing that bump,” she said. Skeletons are more than practical teaching tools for Reidenberg—they possess immense natural beauty too. “The way I look at this,” Reidenberg said, presenting a real human skull to the audience, “is the same way you look at a seashell like a conch shell. It’s not gross to me. I don’t see it and think ‘Ewww, dead human!’ It’s beautiful.”