Gray’s Anatomy

Title page of American 20th edition (1918)

Gray’s Anatomy is an English-language textbook of human anatomy originally written by Henry Gray and illustrated by Henry Vandyke Carter. Earlier editions were called Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical and Gray’s Anatomy: Descriptive and Applied, but the book’s name is commonly shortened to, and later editions are titled, Gray’s Anatomy. The book is widely regarded as an extremely influential work on the subject, and has continued to be revised and republished from its initial publication in 1858 to the present day. The latest edition of the book, the 41st, was published in September 2015.

The English anatomist Henry Gray was born in 1827. He studied the development of the endocrine glands and spleen and in 1853 was appointed Lecturer on Anatomy at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London. In 1855, he approached his colleague Henry Vandyke Carter with his idea to produce an inexpensive and accessible anatomy textbook for medical students. Dissecting unclaimed bodies from workhouse and hospital mortuaries through the Anatomy Act of 1832, the two worked for 18 months on what would form the basis of the book. Their work was first published in 1858 by John William Parker in London. It was dedicated by Gray to Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Baronet. An imprint of this English first edition was published in the United States in 1859, with slight alterations. Gray prepared a second, revised edition, which was published in the United Kingdom in 1860, also by J.W. Parker. However, Gray died the following year, at the age of 34, having contracted smallpox while treating his nephew (who survived). His death had come just three years after the initial publication of his Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical. Even so, the work on his much-praised book was continued by others. Longman’s publication reportedly began in 1863, after their acquisition of the J.W. Parker publishing business. This coincided with the publication date of the third British edition of Gray’s Anatomy. Successive British editions of Gray’s Anatomy continued to be published under the Longman, and more recently Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier imprints, reflecting further changes in ownership of the publishing companies over the years.

The newest, 41st edition of Gray’s Anatomy was published on 25 September 2015 by Elsevier in both print and on-line versions, and is the first edition to have enhanced on-line content including anatomical videos and a bonus Gray’s imaging library. The latest edition also has 24 specially invited on-line commentaries on controversial anatomical topics as diverse as advances in electron microscopy and fluorescence microscopy; the neurovascular bundles of the prostate; stem cells in regenerative medicine; the anatomy of facial ageing; and technical aspects and applications of diagnostic radiology. Via Wiki

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One Response to Gray’s Anatomy

  1. alfy says:

    A fascinating post, Jim. I had no idea that poor Gray had such a short life, but what a memorial. Instead of a statue, he had a book, whose name was known, not only to every doctor since the 1850s but to other professions as well, like science or the law. It is probably a world-wide reputation. I wonder what he would have made of the recent claim, by the Paddies, that the abdominal mesentery is really an organ in its own right? (See the recent Deskarati post on this.)

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