Professor Lorna J Martin, internationally acclaimed researcher and Head of the Division of Forensic Pathology at the University of Cape Town, will discuss her experiences in the autopsy room as part of the Medical Humanities public lecture series on Thursday 1 August 2013. Presented by UCT’s Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA) in association with the Department of Social Anthropology, these new public lectures take place in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Hiddingh Campus.

Whereas most medical disciplines regard death as the enemy to be fought or delayed at any cost, for others it is only the beginning. Forensic Pathology, a branch of medicine that takes its name from the Latin forēnsis (meaning “before the forum”), is as old as the Roman Forum where criminal cases were decided through public presentations and debate. Recognised as a specialist branch of medicine since 1959, the modern discipline of Forensic Pathology has the mandate to investigate the medico-legal causes of unnatural death.

In a lecture titled Dying to Begin, Lorna J Martin will present a collage of experiences and events from her professional career to highlight the intersections of this branch of medicine with the humanities and the arts. Using the public lecture as a forum for interdisciplinary discussion, she will employ the wide lens of forensic pathology to dissect the diverse range of human activity represented at death. 

This will include the public health aspects of violence and injury, and how those inform preventative health programs; the policy gains and practical improvements for live patients that have been made by interdisciplinary collaborations; the ‘healing of patients’ through the mandate to investigate unnatural death; and more specific interactions with the arts, in the Pathology Learning Centre, as well as with individual artists and writers.

Professor Lorna J Martin was appointed as Chief Specialist and Head of Division of Forensic Medicine in the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences at UCT in 2004, making her the first woman and the youngest person to be appointed as the Head of a Division of Forensic Pathology in the country. She was elected as the Head of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences in 2009. A widely published and award-winning academic, her research interests predominantly focus on combating violence against women and children.

Martin has performed in excess of 8 000 autopsies, examined approximately 2000 rape survivors, 500 drunken drivers and testified in hundreds of court cases. She has also been invited by various organisations across the globe to participate in conferences, steering committees and provide expert opinions on high profile cases.

This event will take place on Thursday 1 August 2013 at 17:30 in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Old Medical School Building, University of Cape Town (UCT) Hiddingh Campus, Orange Street, Cape Town, and is free. Refreshments will be served from 17:00; no booking is necessary.

Forthcoming speakers in the Medical Humanities public lecture series include prominent researchers from a range of disciplines: Raj Ramesar, head of the Division of Human Genetics, UCT; Catherine Burns, WITS Institute for Social and Economic Research; neuropsychologist and psychoanalyst Mark Solms, head of the Department of Psychology, UCT; and Elelwani Ramugondo, head of the Division of Occupational Therapy, UCT. For more information on this series, contact the GIPCA office on 021 480 7156 or

Lorna Martin audio recording available for download.

Start: 1 Aug ’13 5:30 pm

End: 1 Aug ’13 6:30 pm

Cost: Free


Organizer: GIPCA


Venue: Anatomy Lecture Theatre

Phone: +27 21 480 7156

Address: Google Map 31-37 Orange Street, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa