History Of Embalming

Amanda and Krystal

The first to develop methods of embalming were the Egyptians. One of the first solutions they developed was a natron solution. The solution was a mixture of sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, sodium carbonate, and potassium and sodium nitrate.

Much later Leonardo da Vinci described a method of venous injection of a fluid that contained mixtures of turpentine, camphor, lavender oil, mercury sulfide, wine, rosin, and saltpeter.

In the 17th century Gabriel Clauderus  described a method using " balsamic spirit" which was one pound cream of tartar and a half-pound of salammoniac in six pounds of water, which the body was injected and immersed in for 6 weeks.

The 18th century gave rise to William Hunter's method of arterial and cavity embalming which used turpentine and camphor.

During the 19th century they needed to find ways to not only preserve but also disinfect. Fluids containing salts of heavy metals, like lead, copper, and mercury, to prevent bacterial growth.

Later after the use of metal salts were prohibited formaldehyde became the common choice for embalming. Formaldehyde in aqueous solution goes through two reactions. The first involves the formation of methylene glycol, and the second reacts with oxygen to yield formic acid.

In order to prevent formic acid build up buffers such as methanol are methyl salicylate are added to the embalming fluid. Common buffers paired with formaldehyde to achieve the appropriate pH is Boric acid with sodium tetraborate or sodium bicarbonate with dibasic sodium phosphate.

Later another embalming fluid, Glutaraldehyde, which like formaldehyde formed cross links among proteins to preserve tissue, was created but is not often used due to it cost.

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