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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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William S. Halsted, MD

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.

William S. Halsted, MD (1852 – 1922) American anatomist, teacher, and surgeon, William Stewart Halsted was born in New York City, USA to a wealthy family of English origin. His father was involved in charitable work and Governor and trustee to a city hospital. Not a brilliant student initially, Halsted took an undergraduate in Liberal Arts in Yale, CT., after which he entered the Medical College of Physicians at the Columbia College, where he excelled.

As a second-year medical student Halsted applied and obtained a position in surgery at a local hospital. In here he learned about Lister’s antiseptic technique and became an adamant proponent of it to reduce infection. In 1877 Halsted obtained his MD. After a short time as House Physician at the New York Hospital, Halsted traveled to Europe to further his education studying for two years at the Universities of Vienna, Leipzig, and W?rzburg.

Besides being at the forefront of surgical and antiseptic techniques (introducing the use of rubber gloves in surgery), Halsted was extremely concerned with the way medical students were taught in the US. He pioneered bedside clinical round discussions with the medical students after two years of basic sciences studies. Halsted developed the idea of a patient chart; he also developed the residency program for medical students in use today.

William Stewart Halsted, MD

Halsted is probably the most influential researcher and surgeon at the turn of the century. He dedicated time to the study of intestinal anastomoses and the use of silk as a suture material. His experimental work in 1887 proved that the inclusion of the submucosa layer in an anastomosis was mandatory, as well that a single layered anastomosis was enough to attain closure. Perhaps Halsted’s most important contribution was the application and use of the scientific method to surgical questions. Halsted’s principles set the standards used today in surgical suturing and surgical stapling.

He also pioneered the development and surgical techniques for radical mastectomy as a treatment for breast cancer.

As a side effect of this studied in anesthesia and the use of cocaine for anesthesia, Halsted became addicted to this substance, a problem that followed him through the years. Without impairing his capacity as a researcher and a surgeon, Halsted eventually recovered. He died in Baltimore in 1922 as a complication to surgery.

1. Dubay, A. D., & Franz, G. M. (2003). Acute Wound Healing: The Biology of Acute Wound Failure. Surg Clin NA, 83, 463-481.
2. Halsted, W. S. (1887). Circular Suture of the Intestine - An Experimental Study. Am J Med Sci, 436-461.
3. “William Stewart Halsted: his life and contributions to surgery” Osborne, P. Lancet Oncol 2007; 8: 256–65
4. “William Stewart Halsted: Surgical pioneer” Burress, P Endoc Today (2010), 8: (2) 22
5. “William Stewart Halsted (1852–1922) Neurological stamp” Haas, LF J Neurol Neurosurg Psych 2000;69:641

Original image courtesy of "Images from the History of Medicine" at  www.nih.gov