Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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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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(UPDATED) The term [ventral] arises from the Latin word [venter] and the root term [ventr-] meaning "belly" or "sac". The adjective [ventral] means "towards the front" , or "towards the belly side of the body". The term ventral therefore means "abdomen".

Many use the term [ventral] synonymously with "anterior"; although this is technically correct, the proper term to use when referring to the patient in the anatomical position should be "anterior". In embryology, since the embryo is curved, most of the anterior aspect of the embryo looks towards the abdomen, ergo ventral.

A ventral hernia is any herniation that occurs in the anterior aspect of the abdomen, including Spigelian hernias, omphaloceles, etc.

Other terms that arise from the same root term are [ventricle], meaning "little belly", or "little sac", and [ventricular], meaning "pertaining to a ventricle".

Lateral view - Human fetus 60 days (www.bartleby.com)
Note: A comment from my friend Dr. Elizabeth Murray

"My understanding of "anterior" means "in the direction of movement" for any given organism (and "posterior" means opposite the direction of movement for an organism). Thus, ventral does not ever change for any creature (vertebrate or even invertebrate), as it refers to a body part/surface.  But when considering two-legged and four-legged (or finned) creatures, you see the differences:  Ventral = anterior in us, but in a dog or fish ventral = inferior.

Ventral/dorsal refer to belly/back in any organism, and cranial/caudal refer to head-end and tail-end in any organism -- those four terms refer to body parts.  However, anterior/posterior refer to the way an organism moves in space, and superior/inferior refer to an organism's relationship to the earth/pull of gravity."

An interesting side note: The word [ventriloquist] arises from the root term [-ventri-] from the Latin [venter] and the suffix [-loquist], from the Latin [loquos] and [locutus], meaning "to speak", or "someone who speaks". The term [ventriloquist] means then "someone who speaks from the abdomen (or stomach)". We now know that this is not so, but that is what most people thought a ventriloquist does!

Images courtesy of www.bartleby.comClick on the image for a larger version. 

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