Medical Care is Much Advanced Since Victorian Era of Mid-1800s


In the final sentences quoted below, note the under-appreciated role of air conditioning, and electric light, in advancing medical education.

(p. W6) “Gray’s Anatomy” is one of the most famous medical books of all time, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then the man most responsible for the success of the book was its long-forgotten illustrator, Henry Vandyke Carter. In “The Making of Mr. Gray’s Anatomy,” Ruth Richardson shows how Carter and Henry Gray came together to produce a classic that originally bore neither of their names — it was published as “Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical” — but she also affords us a remarkable glimpse of science in the 19th century.
. . .
Not much of a paper record exists regarding Henry Gray’s life. Ms. Richardson speculates that his possessions were burned in the “Victorian terror” stirred by smallpox, the disease that would kill him at age 34. Henry Carter kept a diary, but its contents are not exactly a trove of detail about his life and times. . . .
. . .
Describing their methods, Ms. Richardson reminds us of what we now take for granted in medicine by relating what wasn’t feasible back then. The “dissecting season” was the colder months, January-March, to make the most of the cadavers’ preservation. And the work day had to begin soon after dawn because sunlight was so much better for close observation than any other light source.

For the full review, see:
MARK F. TEAFORD. “Dissecting an Unheralded Alliance; A classic medical text bears one man’s name, but it was the product of a true collaboration.” Wall Street Journal (Fri., MARCH 27, 2009): W6.
(Note: ellipses added.)

The reference to the reviewed book is:
Richardson, Ruth. The Making of Mr. Gray’s Anatomy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

MakingOfMrGraysAnatomyBK.jpg

Source of book cover image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited above.

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