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The Making of Gray’s Anatomy

Speaker: Dr Ruth Richardson





We have a particular interest in Gray’s Anatomy, as the 150th anniversary edition featured an image from Dr Marco Catani’s work, who is the head of the Natbrainlab.


Gray's Anatomy is probably one of the most iconic scientific books ever published: an illustrated textbook of anatomy that is still a household name 150 years since its first edition, known for its rigorously scientific text, and masterful illustrations as beautiful as they are detailed. The Making of Mr Gray's Anatomy tells the story of the creation of this remarkable book, and the individuals who made it happen: Henry Gray, the bright and ambitious physiologist, poised for medical fame and fortune, who was the book's author; Carter, the brilliant young illustrator, lacking Gray's social advantages, shy and inclined to religious introspection; and the publishers - Parkers, father and son, the father eager to employ new technology, the son part of a lively circle of intellectuals. It is the story of changing attitudes in the mid-19th century; of the social impact of science, the changing status of medicine; of poverty and class; of craftsmanship and technology. And it all unfolds in the atmospheric milieu of Victorian London - taking you from the smart townhouses of Belgravia, to the dissection room of St George's Hospital, and to the workhouses and mortuaries where we meet the friendless poor who would ultimately be immortalised in Carter's engravings.


Alongside the story of the making of the book itself, Ruth Richardson reflects on what made Gray's Anatomy such a unique intellectual, artistic, and cultural achievement - how it represented a summation of a long half century's blossoming of anatomical knowledge and exploration, and how it appeared just at the right time to become the 'Doctor's Bible' for generations of medics to follow.




Dr Ruth Richardson is Senior Visiting Research Fellow in History at the University of Hertfordshire at Hatfield; Affiliated Scholar in the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; and Society of Apothecaries Examiner and Lecturer in the History of Medicine. She is an interdisciplinary historian with particular interests in literature, history, the visual arts and medicine.She wrote the historical introduction for the new 40th edition of Gray's Anatomy, and her previous publications include Death, Dissection and the Destitute; An Introduction to Medical Humanities and The Healing Environment, both co-edited with Deborah Kirklin; H.B. Carter & Sons: Victorian Watercolour Drawing and the Art of Illustration, co-authored with Gordon Bell and Arthur Credland; as well as numerous articles for journals including Nature and The British Medical Journal and a regular monthly medical history column for The Lancet.


Dr Richardson’s book ‘The Making of Gray’s Anatomy’ is available here.

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