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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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Philippo Verheyen

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.

Philippo Verheyen (1648 – 1710). Flemish physician and anatomist, Philipo (Philip) Verheyen was born in the city of Verrebroek in Belgium, worked as a farmer in his early years and was probably expected to be a farmer for the rest of his life. The local Catholic parish pastor Johannes Jaspars, recognizing his intelligence, started teaching him Latin and letters with the intention of having Philip become a priest.

In 1672, he was sent to the Trinity College in Leuven where he started his studies in arts and later in theology. He continued his studies in Theology at the Collegium Sancti Spiritus (College of the Holy Spirit). During the latter part of his studies Verhayen was already wearing a priest’s collar. In 1675 Verheyen suffered an injury that lead to gangrene and eventual amputation of his left leg. This injury prevented him from taking his final vows as a priest.

Verheyen enrolled at the University of Leuven College Of Medicine where after 3 years he became a physician.  Unhappy with his mostly theoretical medical knowledge Verhayen moved to Leyden to continue his studies with Frederick Ryus and others.

Philippo Verheyen
In 1683 Verheyen returns to Leuven where he presents his doctoral thesis which is accepted. In August 1669 elected Rector Magnificus at the University of Leyden, one of the highest honors ever bestowed on him. This is why Verheyen's statue is among the personalities honored at the town hall in Leuven, Belgium.

Verheyen was a prolific writer including several books and manuscripts. His main work “Corporis Humani  Anatomiae”, a two book work, had twelve editions, some in other languages besides Latin. This book became one of the most used anatomy books until the middle of the 18th century. Interestingly, Verheyen relates his life and studies at the beginning of his book in a chapter call Compendium Vitae (CV). Only the first edition was published while Verheyen was alive.

The following excerpt of his book "Corporis Humani Anatomiae Liber Primus" reads : " ... QuintusAuricularis, quia cum minimum sit, auribus expurgandis est aptissimus" translates as"..the fifth (finger, called) Auricularis, because how small it is, is most suitable to clean the ears". Incredibly, anatomists at that time called the fifth digit "digitus auricularis".

Verheyen is credited with the creation of the eponym the “Achilles tendon” which denominates the common tendon for the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle, although at the time he called it the “Chorda Achillis”. He also described the kidneys in detail, especially the arterial “stars” found on the surface of the kidney, which are today known as the “Stars of Verheyen”.

In 2005 an article appeared on the World Wide Web with a painting showing Verhayen dissecting his own amputated leg. This initially “anonymous” oil pintingis actually a Photoshop-edited image which incorporates parts of the painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” by Rembrandt.  This work was made by ShrestaRit Premnath. This is a conceptual artwork depicting the concept of amputation, but not an actual oil painting, as shown by the image analysis depicted at the bottom of this article.

The story of Verheyen keeping and dissecting his own leg is most probably a myth for several reasons. Verhayen was poor and did not have enough money to go to Leyden to have his leg amputated there as the myth suggests. Preservation techniques were not too good at the time and when Verheyen had his leg amputated he had yet to enter medical school and be introduced to the art of human anatomy. Granted, he had dissected animals before in the farm, but it is doubtful that this myth is true.

verheyen sm
"Verheyen dissecting his own leg". Click on the image to see a larger version. The image will open in a new tab
Verheyen's stars on the surface of a human kidney
Verheyen's stars on the surface of a human kidney. Click on the image for a larger version.
Verheyen's statue at Louven's Town Hall
Verheyen's statue at Louven's Town Hall. Click on the image for a larger version.
Title page of Verheyen's Corporis Humani  Anatomiae
Title page of Verheyen's Corporis Humani  Anatomiae. Click on the image for a larger version.
A comparison of Rembrandt's work and a painting said to depict Verheyen dissecting his own leg
Click on the image for a larger version.

The image above shows a comparison between Rembrandt's  painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” and an "anonymous" oil painting that appeared on the Internet circa 2005.

This oil painting include elements from Rembrandt's work. First, the head of "Verheyen" has been copied and flipped horizontally, This causes "Verheyen's" neck position to be awkward for the job of dissection. Second, the right hand holding the dissector and Achilles' tendon is Dr. Tulp's hand that has been slightly rotated, including the instrument anf the cuff. Third, the left hand is also that of Dr. Tulp, but not the cuff. If you look closely you will notice that both cuffs are different!

I have not been able to find the original painting on which these elements were added. My guess is that the left leg depicted on the table is also added. Interestingly, the table shows perpective problems.

Personal note: I am proud to have in my library catalog a copy of the second edition of Philippo Verheyen's “Corporis Humani  Anatomiae, Liber Primus”, published in 1710 in Brussels by the printer house of Fraters Serstevens. The book is signed by an Ex-Libris by "Hanolet". I have not been able to find more information on this prior owner of this book. An image of the title page is depicted in this article. Dr. Miranda

1. “Philip Verheyen (1648-1710) and his Corporis Humani Anatomiae” Suy R. Acta chir belg, 2007, 107, 343-354
2. “Achilles tendon: the 305th anniversary of the French priority on the introduction of the famous anatomical eponym” Musil, V. et al Surg Radiol Anat (2011) 33:421–427
3. "Philip Verheyen" Research and movie by digitalstories.be by Hedwige Daenens
Original image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

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