Virchows Archiv

, Volume 454, Issue 3, pp 355–357 | Cite as

The Salafia method rediscovered

  • Dario Piombino-MascaliEmail author
  • Arthur C. Aufderheide
  • Melissa Johnson-Williams
  • Albert R. Zink
Letter to the Editor


Embalming has played an essential role in human culture for much of history. While religious and cultural beliefs were the main motivators throughout antiquity, Modern Age advances in anatomy, pathology, and chemistry have caused body preservation to become an important tool for funerary purposes and educational and scientific practice [1]. In recent years, the authors have investigated the life and preparation techniques of Professor Alfredo Salafia (1869–1933), a Sicilian embalmer who devised a method of permanent preservation of soft tissue for dissection and funeral preparation (Fig. 1a).

Having started his experiments with animals, Salafia achieved unexpectedly satisfactory results in the early 1900s, after he was granted permission to apply his procedure to unclaimed human bodies, which remained in an excellent state of preservation after arterial injection of a special fluid [2]. From 1902 forward, he was responsible for the embalming of many prominent citizens of Palermo,...


Embalming Formaldehyde History Italy 19th century 20th century 



We are most grateful to the relatives of Professor Salafia, who enabled us to complete this research, as well as two anonymous reviewers who commented on the original paper. Special thanks are due to Angela Graefen, who patiently edited the text. This article is dedicated to the memory of the embalming historians Edward C. and Gail R. Johnson, who first researched the work of Alfredo Salafia.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dario Piombino-Mascali
    • 1
    Email author
  • Arthur C. Aufderheide
    • 2
  • Melissa Johnson-Williams
    • 3
  • Albert R. Zink
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Mummies and the IcemanEURACBolzanoItaly
  2. 2.Department of PathologyUniversity of Minnesota-DuluthDuluthUSA
  3. 3.American Society of EmbalmersForest ParkUSA

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