Henry Gray’s ‘Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice’

Anatomy (noun):

I. The process, subjects, and products of dissection of the body.

 1. a. The artificial separation of the different parts of a human body or animal (or more generally of any organized body), in order to discover their position, structure, and economy; dissection.

2a. A body (or part of one) anatomized or dissected, so as to show the position and structure of the organs.
[Oxford English Dictionary]

There may yet come a time when we will question the value of understanding the health of a living person by dissecting the body of a dead one. Humans are social animals. Life is best understood in motion.

It is, nonetheless, interesting to compare today’s imperial brain with its treatment in the first ‘modern’ anatomy textbook: Henry Gray’s Anatomy, first published in 1858, when he was just 31.

The book’s illustrations—by Henry Vandyke Carter (incidentally, born in my home town)—are central to its continuing fascination. Tine spent exploring them is rewarding.

In 1858 the ‘limbic brain’, which is so prominent in today’s explanation of emotions, had yet to be discovered, or is it ‘discerned’?

So how were they accounted for in its absence?

Gray died of smallpox three years after the book’s first publication. Carter died of tuberculosis on May 4, 1897—115 years ago today.

Gray’s Anatomy can be accessed here.

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