The doctor invented a liquid plastic process that preserves bodies. He has put many of them on display in museum exhibits that show them in poses like playing poker or throwing a football.
One such exhibit opened Jan. 18 at the Milwaukee Public Museum and has had 100,000 people pay to see it so far, Dan Finley, president of the nonprofit company that operates the museum, told The Associated Press.
"It's the biggest exhibition we've ever done," he said. "The best attended."
Finley said every specimen in his exhibit was there with informed consent. He said it was his understanding that 8,000 people have volunteered to have their bodies - which are skinned for the exhibit - used in future "Body Worlds" shows.
Finley said he sees no problem with the shows themselves or von Hagens' work.
"We would defend his specimens as ethical," Finley said.