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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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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.
Avicenna (980 AD – 1037 AD) Persian physician, philosopher, mathematician, naturalist, geologist, musical theorist, astronomer and poet. Ab? Al? al-Hysayn ibn-‘Abd-All?h ibn-S?na, also known as “ibn-S?na“ and as “Avicenna” was born in Afshaneh, near the city of Bokhara (in old Persia, what today is Iran) in 980AD.

Intellectually gifted, Avicenna studied philosophy and the Islam religion, with early studies in medicine. By age 18 he was already a famous physician. With access to the royal library Avicenna continued his studies and traveled through what today is Iran. Avicenna had government positions, becoming prime minister. Jailed for political reasons Avicenna wrote a large number of his medical, philosophical, and astronomical publications while in jail.

Of over 450 total medical books attributed to Avicenna, his most famous publication was the “al-Qanun-fi-al-Tibb” or the “Canon of Medicine”, consisting of five books on principles of medicine, diseases, drugs, and compound medicines. The Canon was translated into Latin and later into other languages, remaining an important book for at least until the 16th century.

He used the term “vermis” and spoke of the “tailed nucleus”, known to us as the “caudate nucleus”. Avicenna died in 1037AD at 57 years of age. He was buried in the city of Hamadh?n, where his tomb still exists. Avicenna has been called the “prince of physicians”.

1. “Avicenna” Koontz AR JAMA. 1962;179(1):99
2. "Honoring Avicenna, the Great Persian Physician on the World's Postage Stamps". Afshar, A. Arch Iranian Med (1029-2977), 13 (5), 447
3. "Avicenna and the Canon of Medicine: A millennial tribute" West J Med 133:367-370, Oct 1980
4. “Avicenna (980–1037 AD) Zargaran, A, et al. J Neurol (2012) 259:389–390 5. “Avicenna” JAMA 177:704 (1961)
Original image courtesy of NLM

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