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Gift of life memorial art work unveiled

28 September 2012

Gift of life memorial art work unveiled

Every year, between 40 and 50 people leave their bodies to Cardiff University for the purpose of teaching next generations of students. The memorial artwork, by the internationally renowned artist, Tom Phillips CBE RA has been created as a lasting memorial to all those people who have made the decision in life to donate their body to science after death.

Featuring the inscription, "Alive we thought beyond our lives to give our bodies as a book for you to read", the horizontal marble artwork will be permanently displayed in the School’s Anatomy Laboratory, the largest anatomy room in the UK.  

Human bodies are used to teach students about the structure of the body and how it works, and to train and develop the skills of surgeons and pathologists. The Human Tissue Authority regulates all medical schools which use donated bodies.

Cardiff University’s Anatomy Laboratory is regularly used by 800 undergraduates and 100 postgraduates. All first and second year medical and biomedical science students and all first year dental students benefit from the privileged opportunity to study human anatomy through dissection. The facilities are also used by students of radiography, physiotherapy, podiatry, art and optometry. In addition to undergraduate study, the lab is employed for medical and surgical training sessions and courses, as well as research in biomedical sciences.

Bernard Moxham, Professor of Anatomy in the Cardiff School of Biosciences, said: "This is our opportunity to thank those in Wales, and beyond, who have contributed so significantly to the education and training of medical and healthcare professionals of the future. This valuable learning experience is due entirely to the generosity of donors who leave their body to the University, and in doing so, give a gift of life and knowledge for future generations."

The memorial artwork was unveiled at a private ceremony attended by families of some of those who have donated their bodies to the University, staff, students and supporters of the School. A book of essays, poems and photographs of students’ reaction to their first day in the Anatomy Laboratory has also been published to coincide with the event.

Creator of the artwork who recently had had a memorial sculpture to the Armed Forces, the Conflict Memorial installed at Westminster Abbey, Tom Phillips CBE RA said: "It was a fine idea of Bernard Moxham, Professor of Anatomy at the School of Biosciences, to celebrate with art the terminal largesse of those who donate their physical remains to science. I hope the memorial does sensitive honour to their generosity."

The Derek Williams Trust kindly donated £5,000 towards the cost of the artwork.


For more media information or to arrange filming / photography / interviews please contact:

Victoria Dando

Public Relations and Communications

Cardiff University

T: 02920 879074


About Tom Phillips CBE RA

Tom Phillips has been a member of the Royal Society since 1989, Tom Phillips' work spans all media and is to be found on an international stage. He is well-known for his fusion of texts and images in his ongoing project A Humument; his portraits include Dame Iris Murdoch and the Monty Python team. He has designed tapestries which hang in St Catherine's College, Oxford and produced installation art, such as the glass screens and paintings at The Ivy restaurant, London.

In addition to his murals and sculpture, Tom is also a composer of music with a passion for opera; a poet and scholar; and a photographer and film-maker.

To learn more, visit

About Cardiff School of Biosciences

Cardiff School of Biosciences is one of the largest bioscience departments in the UK. It is known world-wide for work across a wide range of fields and includes two Nobel Prize winners (Professors Robert Huber and Sir Martin Evans) among its researchers. Research at the School is focused within six major areas: biodiversity, connective tissue biology, genetics, microbiology, molecular cell biology and neuroscience.