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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.
Paracelsus (1493 – 1541). Swiss physician and alchemist , Phillipus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast Von Hohenheim was born in Einsiedeln in 1493 (one year after Columbus discovered America) in what is today is Switzerland. At an early age he became a migrant student, visiting several universities including T?bingen, Vienna, W?rttemberg, Heidelberg,  and Cologne. There is discussion as to whether he received or not a medical degree, although most authors today agree he might had. In 1510 he moved to Ferrara where he attained (apparently) his medical degree in 1516. During his constant travels he started to understand that folk medical treatment based on actual observation was better than what was published and followed blindly by the physicians of the time.

He started to call himself “Paracelsus” which means “alongside Celsus”, seen as one of the greatest physicians in history. Paracelsus continued his travels, visiting Egypt and Jerusalem. It is at this time that he started delving into the world of alchemy, returning to his home circa 1524.

Paracelsus was appointed “Town Physician” of the city of Basle but created controversy when he started lecturing in German (not Latin) and invited the general public as well as his students to his lectures. In his presentations he introduced the concepts of direct observation of the patient and empirical treatment, based his statements on experiments and reasoning opposing the “classics” Galen, and Avicenna.

Paracelsus. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine
Original image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine
In 1527, during a demonstration he publicly burned the works of Avicenna to prove his point. This caused a backlash from the university and town authorities who expelled him in 1528. From this point on, Paracelsus’ life is constant wandering. He settles for a time and then travels again. In spite of his disdain for the works of the “medical greats”, he himself writes a large number of works, including medicine, surgery, theology, astronomy, magic, etc.  Many of these works are not published until after his death as he is considered to be contradicting Galen. In 1530 he writes the best description of syphilis and recommended its treatment with mercury.

In 1541 he was appointed to a post on the staff of Duke Ernest of Bavaria, but he died in mysterious circumstances on September 24 of that year at the White Horse Inn in Salzburg.

Paracelsus is a controversial image, bound in legend. For many, Paracelsus was bombastic, quarrelsome, opinionated and a drunkard. For others he is a figure of his time, clashing with the classics and giving us a new way to look at the world and at diseases. He taught that wounds must be allowed to drain and not, as was common, packed with unhealthy materials.  According to him, the human body primarily consists of salt, sulphur, and mercury, and it is the separation of these elements that causes illness. He introduced mineral baths and made opium, mercury, lead and other minerals part of his treatment, foreshadowing modern pharmacology with the use of chemical remedies, mercury for syphilis, laudanum and antimony. Paracelsus stated in 1538 that “Everything is a poison, the dose alone which makes a thing not a poison”.

I just discovered an interesting chain of events. For a time Paracelsus had a medical student that later decided not to continue his medical studies and instead dedicated himself to the new art of printing. His name was Johannes Oporinus and he was the printer that Andreas Vesalius selected to print his masterpiece, the "Fabrica".

1. “Paracelsus”  Abbott.A. Nature 366: (1993) 98
2. “Paradigm lost: a celebration of Paracelsus on his quincentenary” Feder. G. Lancet. 341: (1993) 1396-1397
3. “Does Paracelsus deserve a place in the medical pantheon?” Bynum, B. 367: (2006) 29; 1389–1390
4. “Paracelsus: founder of medical chemistry” Endeavour 15:4 (1991) 147
5. “Paracelsus: the medical Luther” Leary B. 73: 3(1984) 131-133
6. “Paracelus and the Philosopher’s Stone” TenHoor, W. Am J Surg (1935) 30:3 563-572

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