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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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Jacobus Sylvius

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.

Jacobus Sylvius (1478 - 1555). French physician, teacher, and anatomist, Sylvius was born in poverty as Jacques Dubois, in the city of Louisville, near Amiens. He would eventually become known as Jacobus Sylvius Ambianus. In spite of his humble beginnings Sylvius entered the College of Tournay. Too poor to continue his studies he started to instruct in anatomy, which helped him earn enough to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Medicine in 1531 in Montpellier.

Sylvius returned to Paris as a demonstrator in anatomy, where he excelled. He had many famous students, among them was Andrea Vesalius. Sylvius followed strictly the teachings of Galen, a situation that eventually caused not only his downfall, but enmity with Vesalius and others. Sylvius was also of the opinion that the student of anatomy should learn from dissection as well as from the books. One of Sylvius’ most important achievement was that he added to the Galenic numerical description by numbers, a descriptive nomenclature creating many names in used today such as brachialis, tibial, peroneus, scalene, serratus, biceps, triceps, etc. He is also responsible for many other names such as femoral, popliteal, subclavian, phrenic, axillary, spermatic, epiploic, etc.

Jacobus Silvius Ambianus
Sylvius was a controversial man. He was known for being greedy, a miser, and the use of foul language, but at the same time he wrote a book to guide the poor student who wanted to get through Medical School. He was finally appointed professor of Medicine at the Royal College of Paris, a position he held until his death in 1555.

Sylvius was so enraged with Vesalius’ denouncement of Galen as being wrong, that he started a personal war against him including sending letters to the King and through public letters where he called Vesalius a madman (vaesanus), plus “purveyor of filth and sewage, pimp, liar, and various epithets unprintable even in our own permissive era” (excerpt from Magner, 1992)

Although many attribute the eponyms of the lateral cerebral sulcus (Sylvian fissure) and the cerebral aqueduct (aqueduct of Sylvius) to Jacobus Sylvius, these two structures are actually named after Franciscus Sylvius (1614 – 1672) a German anatomist. On top of this, some of the structures actually discovered by Jacobus Sylvius were named eponymically after someone else, like the incomplete valve found at the junction of the inferior vena cava and the right atrium, named after Bartholomew Eustachius (c.1520 - 1574).

Sylvius’ contribution to anatomy is immeasurable, but his personality traits have made him lose status and almost forgotten.

1. “Advice for Poor Medical Students: Sylvius, J. Translated by O’Malley CD J Hist Med 1962 17:141-151
2. “A Historical Lesson from Franciscus Sylvius and Jacobus Sylvius” Bakkum DC (2011) J Chir Hum 18:94-98
3. “A Historical Mistake: The aqueduct of Sylvius” Leite Dos Santos, AR et al Neurosurg Rev (2004) 27: 224-225
4. “Jacobus Sylvius (Jacques Dubois) 1478-1555 – Preceptor of Vesalius” JAMA (1966) 195 13; 1147
5. "Andreas Vesalius; The Making, the Madman, and the Myth" Joffe, Stephen N. Persona Publishing 2009
6. “A History of Medicine” Magner, LN Ed. M Deckker Pub 199

Original image courtesy of Images from the History of Medicine

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