Monday, April 13, 2009

1 man’s name in the title, but a book that’s a true collaboration: new historical insight into the classic medical text "Gray's Anatomy"

"Gray's Anatomy" is one of the most famous medical books of all time, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then the man most responsible for the success of the book was its long-forgotten illustrator, Henry Vandyke Carter.

In "The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy," Ruth Richardson shows how Carter and Henry Gray came together to produce a classic that originally bore neither of their names -- it was published as "Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical" -- but she also affords us a remarkable glimpse of science in the 19th century.

"The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy"
By Ruth Richardson
Oxford University Press, 288 pages, $29.95

The book is reviewed in the Wall Street Journal by Dr. Mark F. Teaford, professor of functional anatomy and evolution at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

He writes:

The setting is London in the mid-1800s, a time before anesthesia and antibiotics, when physicians were trained in many ways, at many places. Britain's Anatomy Act had been in effect for more than 20 years -- guaranteeing sources of bodies for medical dissection but having a frightening effect on the poor and sick of Victorian England. Previously, "the only legal source of corpses for dissection in anatomy schools had been the bodies of murderers fresh from the gallows," Ms. Richardson writes. With the passage of the act, the bodies of those who died in Victorian workhouses and hospitals and went unclaimed for 48 hours could be dissected. Some hospitals were noticeably slow to notify next of kin, thus guaranteeing a more ready supply of bodies.

Read his full book review at

And you can read an excerpt of "The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy" at

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