Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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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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The first use of anesthesia in surgery

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.

When I started the sidebar segment entitled "A Moment in History", I thought that it would be only biographical articles. On January 28, 2014, traveling from Austin TX to Cincinnati I was reading a wonderful book: "Masters of the Scalpel" (1962) by Sarah R. Riedman Ph.D. In one of the chapters Dr. Riedman writes about the first use of anesthesia in Surgery. Because of the author's style, as I read the following excerpt, I found myself wondering how it would have felt to be there while history was being made:

"On the morning of October 16, 1846, all but one of the principals were ready in the amphitheatre: Dr. Warren, the senior surgeon, his assistants and strong-armed men who were to hold the patient down, the students, and other spectators were waiting; the patient was brought in, pale with fright.

There was no turning back: everything was set for the removal of the tumor on his jaw. Only Morton (Dr. William T. G. Morton) had not arrived. Dr. Warren was ready to proceed without him, announcing to the onlookers: "As Dr. Morton has not arrived, I presume he is otherwise engaged." And he was - putting the finishing touches on his inhaler in the instrument maker's shop.

William T. G. Morton. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine
Just as the skeptical audience burst into laughter at Dr. Warren's remark, Morton appeared. The operation was held up for a few minutes while Morton prepared a sponge soaked in ether which he placed in the inhaling globe, temporarily corked.

As he came forward to the operating table on which the patient was strapped as always before an operation, Dr. Warren turned to Morton, saying: "Well sir! Your patient is ready."

But Morton wished to gain the patient's confidence. Pointing to Eben Frost ( A patient from whom Dr. Morton had removed a tooth under ether) who in gratitude had come along to the hospital, he said to the pale man: "There is a man who has been operated on under this chemical, and can tell you that it worked." Frost gladly complied.

"Are you afraid?" Morton asked the patient. Whether from courage or confidence, the patient replied, "No, I will do as you tell me."

Morton then put the neck of the flask to the patient's mouth, instructing him to breathe. Slowly the patient went under, his arms and legs jerking in a way probably familiar to frequenters at "ether frolics." As yet no one suspected what the chemical was. After several minutes, the patient was asleep and relaxed. It was now Morton's cue in the drama, as he turned to Dr. Warren. "Sir, your patient is ready."

Warren made the incision. He, like the witnesses, was ready for the bloodcurdling screams so familiar in the operating room. But the patient uttered not a sound.

The operation over, the patient slowly regained consciousness. When questioned by Morton, he readily admitted having felt no pain.

Dr. Warren then broke the silence with the famous words: "Gentlemen, this is no humbug!" And Dr. Henry J. Bigelow: "I have seen something today that will be heard round the world."

The first page of a new chapter in the story of surgery was turned that day."

While looking out the airplane window to the passing cities below, I thought about the millions of people that had been affected by this "Moment in History" and that it needed to be shared and retold to the generations to follow. Dr. Miranda.

Biographical note: Sarah Regal Riedman was born on April 20, 1902 in Kishiniev, Rumania and became a U.S. citizen in 1918.  In 1926, she received a bachelor's degree from Hunter College, followed by a Masters of Science degree from New York University in 1928. In 1935, Ms. Riedman received her Ph.D. from Columbia University. She taught at Hunter College from 1926 to 1930, and at Brooklyn College from 1930 to 1952. At Brooklyn College, she was an instructor, and later an assistant professor of biology.

Ms. Riedman began writing science books for children in 1947, with the publication of "How Man Discovered His Body". Between 1947 and 1983, she wrote or co- wrote approximately forty books. We have not been able to find further information on her. Any contribution to her biography will be most welcome.

Original image courtesy of NLM

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