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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
When We Die

When We Die

The Science, Culture, and Rituals of Death

Cedric Mims

St. Martin's Press


An unusually comprehensive study of death as both a social and scientific phenomenon, When We Die is as frank as it is informed. This far-reaching discussion considers mortality from the personal and the universal perspective, generously citing past and present poets and physicians from a diverse and telling range of traditions. Mims, who for two decades served as Professor of Microbiology at London's Guys Hospital, brings a humane, inquisitive, and learned sensibility to his topic. "This book is a light-hearted but wide-ranging survey of death, the causes of death, and the disposal of corpses," writes Mims. "It tells why we die and how we die, and what happens to the dead body and its bits and pieces. It describes the ways corpses are dealt with in different religions and in different parts of the world; the methods for preserving bodies; and the ways—fascinating in their diversity—in which corpses or parts of corpses are used and abused."

The volume also explores such crucial death-based notions as the afterlife, the soul, and the prospect of immortality. By way of the book's main focus, Mims continues: "We should take a more matter-of-fact view of death (and) accept it and talk about it more than we do—as we have done with the once taboo subject of sex." This is a work that any student of social anthropology will find equally enlightening and essential.

Praise for When We Die

“A superb investigation of death in its medical, social, cultural, and spiritual aspects . . . an enormous wealth of information . . . [Mims] digs up mind-boggling facts and figures . . . This remarkable tome is one of the best introductions available to a difficult topic.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A biography of the human corpse, a compelling and comprehensive survey . . . Mims casts a wide and fine-meshed net over his subject, and his haul is huge and impressive.” —The Daily Telegraph (London)

“Lavish, often startling detail . . . When We Die offers more than enough information to provoke lively exchanges and debate about a deadly subject.” —The Providence Journal-Bulletin

“[With] visceral detail . . . there is a great deal here that is fascinating and can be read without losing a night's sleep.” —Literary Review (London)

Reviews from Goodreads

Cedric Mims

Professor Cedric Mims spent 20 years in Africa, Australia, and the USA. For the next 20 years he was Professor of Microbiology at Guys Hospital in London. He lives in England.

St. Martin's Press

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