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A Moment in History

Self-portrait, Henry Vandyke Carter, MD (Public Domain)
Self-portrait, Henry Vandyke Carter, MD (Public Domain)

Henry Vandyke Carter, MD
(1831 – 1897)

English physician, surgeon, medical artist, and a pioneer in leprosy and mycetoma studies.  HV Carter was born in Yorkshire in 1831. He was the son of Henry Barlow Carter, a well-known artist and it is possible that he honed his natural talents with his father. His mother picked his middle name after a famous painter, Anthony Van Dyck. This is probably why his name is sometimes shown as Henry Van Dyke Carter, although the most common presentation of his middle name is Vandyke.

Having problems to finance his medical studies, HV Carter trained as an apothecary and later as an anatomical demonstrator at St. George’s Hospital in London, where he met Henry Gray (1872-1861), who was at the time the anatomical lecturer. Having seen the quality of HV Carter’s drawings, Henry Gray teamed with him to produce one of the most popular and longer-lived anatomy books in history: “Gray’s Anatomy”, which was first published in late 1857.  The book itself, about which many papers have been written, was immediately accepted and praised because of the clarity of the text as well as the incredible drawings of Henry Vandyke Carter.

While working on the book’s drawings, HV Carter continued his studies and received his MD in 1856.

In spite of initially being offered a co-authorship of the book, Dr. Carter was relegated to the position of illustrator by Henry Gray and never saw the royalties that the book could have generated for him. For all his work and dedication, Dr. Carter only received a one-time payment of 150 pounds. Dr.  Carter never worked again with Gray, who died of smallpox only a few years later.

Frustrated, Dr. Carter took the exams for the India Medical Service.  In 1858 he joined as an Assistant Surgeon and later became a professor of anatomy and physiology. Even later he served as a Civil Surgeon. During his tenure with the India Medical Service he attained the ranks of Surgeon, Surgeon-Major, Surgeon-Lieutenant-Colonel, and Brigade-Surgeon.

Dr. Carter dedicated the rest of his life to the study of leprosy, and other ailments typical of India at that time. He held several important offices, including that of Dean of the Medical School of the University of Bombay. In 1890, after his retirement, he was appointed Honorary Physician to the Queen.

Dr. Henry Vandyke Carter died of tuberculosis in 1897.

Personal note: Had history been different, this famous book would have been called “Gray and Carter’s Anatomy” and Dr. Carter never gone to India. His legacy is still seen in the images of the thousands of copies of “Gray’s Anatomy” throughout the world and the many reproductions of his work available on the Internet. We are proud to use some of his images in this blog. The image accompanying this article is a self-portrait of Dr. Carter. Click on the image for a larger depiction. Dr. Miranda

1. “Obituary: Henry Vandyke Carter” Br Med J (1897);1:1256-7
2. “The Anatomist: A True Story of ‘Gray’s Anatomy” Hayes W. (2007) USA: Ballantine
3. “A Glimpse of Our Past: Henry Gray’s Anatomy” Pearce, JMS. J Clin Anat (2009) 22:291–295
4. “Henry Gray and Henry Vandyke Carter: Creators of a famous textbook” Roberts S. J Med Biogr (2000) 8:206–212.
5. “Henry Vandyke Carter and his meritorious works in India” Tappa, DM et al. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol (2011) 77:101-3

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Jan Evangelista Purkinje

This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

Jan Evangelista Purkinje (1787 - 1869). Known by his German name Purkinje, or his Czech name, Purkyn?, as well as his church-given name Salverius. Purkinje was born in the city of Libochovice, Bohemia, (now Czechoslovakia). He started his early studies in the church with Piarist monks. He took the name of Brother Salverius and served as a teacher in the Piarist schools. He dedicated himself to the study of natural sciences. Purkinje left the monastery before taking his final vows.   Purkinje continued his studies and graduated in medicine in Prague. Even as a student Purkinje started research on the physics of sound and the physiology of vision, which he continued after his graduation. Purkinje was one of the first to understand the vision of motion, thus creating the first animated cartoons!

In 1823 Purkinje was appointed Professor of Physiology at the University of Wroclaw (Breslau), later taking the same chair in Prague. Besides being one of the first to propose experimental physiology as basis for research, Purkinje was one of the first to use the microscope to study the cells of the body, proposing the "cell theory", and introducing the word "protoplasm".

Jan Evangelista PurkinjeOriginal imagecourtesy of Wikipedia.
He made a number of discoveries, and his name is eponymically tied to many structures and processes, such as:

• Purkinje's cell of the cerebellum: Piriform cells found in Purkinje's layer
• Purkinje's fibers of the heart: These are not "fibers" as the name implies, but fast-conducting myocardial cells found as the most distal components of the conduction system of the heart
• Purkinje's law of vertigo: An observation that the apparent motion perceived when stopping the head after rotation changes from horizontal to vertical if the head is inclined laterally. This is important to pilots, as they are trained to understand that in conditions without external reference, moving the head down or laterally can induce uncontrollable vertigo.

1. "Purkinje JE (1845) Mikroskopisch-neurologische Beobachturgen" Arch Anat Physiol Wiss Med II/III:281-295

2. "Jan Evangelista Purkinje (1787-1869)" J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1994 July; 57(7): 777 
3. "Jan Evangelista Purkinje (1787-1869)" Davies, MK; Hollman A. Heart (1996) 76(4): 311

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