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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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Sir Astley Paston Cooper

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.

Sir Astley Paston Cooper (1768 - 1841). An English anatomist and surgeon, Astley Cooper started his medical studies when he was only 16, at the St. Thomas hospital in London. He studied under Henry Cline, and later under John Hunter. Astley Cooper was a well-known anatomist, lecturer, and surgeon in his time. He is known for his many studies in abdominal hernia, otology, aneurysms, and the anatomy and diseases of the breast. In 1804 he described the abdominal transversalis fascia and the internal inguinal ring.

Born in the village of Brooke, Norfolk. At 16 years of age he was placed under the tutelage of Henry Cline (1750 - 1827), senior surgeon at the St. Thomas hospital in London for a seven-year apprenticeship. In 1789 he was appointed as an anatomy lecturer at the same hospital. In 1800 Cooper was appointed Surgeon to the Guy's Hospital in London.

He was the first to attempt the ligation of the abdominal aorta in a patient that had suffered an aortic abdominal aneurysm rupture. The patient survived for one additional day. "Astley Cooper introduced no new philosophy, policy or practice into surgery but was the perfect exponent of the scientific approach to surgery combined with skillful and successful practical ability" Brock (1969)

Sir Astley Paston Cooper
Photograph courtesy of:
Cooper’s name survives in several eponymous anatomical structures and diseases he described, following are two of them:

Cooper's ligaments of the breast: Connective tissue ligamentous strands between the pectoral fascia and the skin overlying the breast.
Cooper's pectineal ligament: A thickening of the periostium on the superior aspect of the pubic bone, lateral to the pubic tubercle. This structure is a preferred site for staple positioning during a laparoscopic herniorrhaphy. When placing the staples, consideration should be placed on the potential presence of an anatomical vascular variation named the "Corona Mortis".

Although Cooper published a number of books and research papers, his seminal contribution to surgery was his two-volume "Treatise on Hernia". The first volume was published in 1795 and the second volume in 1807, with a revised second edition published in 1827.

Personal note: Although Sir Astley Cooper has been credited with the first description of the complex mammary suspensory ligaments (Cooper's ligaments), a 2016 paper by Brinkman and Hage (see Sources) contests this and gives Andreas Vesalius the honor of describing these structures nearly 300 years before Cooper!  Dr. Miranda.

1. "Sir Astley Paston Cooper." Singal, R. et al. Indian J Surg 73:1 (2011): 82-84.
2. "Sir Astley Paston Cooper, 1768-1841:the prince of surgery"Rawling, EG. Can Med Assoc J 99.5 (1968): 221.
3. "The life and work of Sir Astley Cooper" Brock, RC. Ann Royal Coll Surg England 44.1 (1969): 1-18
4. "Andreas Vesalius’ 500th Anniversary: First Description of the Mammary Suspensory Ligaments" Brinkman, RJ; Hage JJ. World J Surg (2016) 40:2144–2148