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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

Sources:
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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In Search of Andreas Vesalius, The Quest for the Lost Grave - The Sequel

Article by Dr. Sylviane Déderix, Pascale Pollier, and Theo Dirix

From 4 until 8 September 2014, more than two hundred artists and scientists from more than 40 countries gathered on the Greek Island of Zakynthos to commemorate the quincentenary of the Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius who died on the island 450 years earlier. At this very moment when some start dreaming of a sequel of our Vesalius Continuum Conference, we continue to dream of the sequel of our search for his lost grave. The triennial of 2017 will be an ideal occasion to present a second phase in our search, on condition that the plan we are developing here succeeds.

The initial phase of the search for the Vesalius’s grave, started and presented in 2014, was based on recent re-examinations of historical sources that contest the traditional view that Vesalius was buried at Laganas. Research by the Flemish historians Omer Steeno, Maurits Biesbrouck, Theodoor Goddeeris and the local historical blogger Pavlos Plessas indeed suggest that the quest for his grave should rather focus on the town of Zakynthos, and more specifically on the courtyard of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Unfortunately, the small church was destroyed along with most of the buildings in Zakynthos during the major earthquake that struck the Ionian Islands in 1953. Its ruins were then buried when the town was reconstructed, and its exact location was soon forgotten. Material evidence, local informants and cartographic data nevertheless point in the same direction: the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie would have been located in the northern sector of the modern town, around the current junction of Kolokotroni and Kolyva streets.

In order to assess the validity of this hypothesis, we called on the services of Geographic Information Systems (abbreviated GIS). GIS are computer-based tools used for the management, analysis, and display of geographically referenced information. Within the framework of the quest for Vesalius’ lost grave, they were used to overlay historical maps on modern cartographic data. The procedure, which is named geo-referencing, allows registering individual maps in a common geographic space so as to define their position in the real world. In the present case, the goal was to geo-reference a town map dated to 1892 and on which the church can be identified. See the accompanying photograph of the church.

Dr. Sylviane Déderix
Pascale Pollier
Theo Dirix

However, since the coastline and the town plan drastically changed after the earthquake, it was not possible to overlay the particular map directly onto modern satellite images: intermediary steps were necessary. The methodology consisted therefore in travelling back in time and geo-referencing three available maps from the most recent to the oldest. The result of the process confirmed that the ruins of the Santa Maria delle Grazie are to be found to the northwest of the intersection of the current Kolyva and Kolokotroni streets. The road that ran in front of the church in the late 19th and early 20th century followed a different orientation than Kolyva street, with the consequence that the church lies partly below the street and partly below private properties.

This small GIS project represents only a first phase in the quest for Vesalius’ grave. Phase 2 would be to conduct a geophysical prospection at the Kolyva/Kolokotroni intersection. By making use of non-destructive geophysical methods, we could get an idea of what is still lying under the modern surface, and at which depth. This would provide a fast and high resolution understanding of the area. In an urban environment, two techniques can be used: Ground Penetrating radar and Electrical Resistivity Tomography, which measure the propagation of electromagnetic waves and of the electrical current in the ground, respectively. If the geophysical results were conclusive, the possibility of small-scale excavations (Phase 3) could be considered.

The GIS was sponsored by Agfa HealthCare, the Greek subsidiary of the Belgian Agfa Gevaert Group, the Belgian University of Antwerp, and Theo Dirix. For the consequent phases, Pascale Pollier offers to sell five original wax models of her facial reconstruction of Andreas Vesalius. This inversed reconstruction of Vesalius’s skull, based on his portrait, will have to suffice until we find his skull, allowing her to reconstruct his real face. Vesalius Continuum, initially the conference where we launched the search of Vesalius’s grave, has evolved in a programme to which you can contribute.

Personal note: My sincere thanks to Dr. Déderix, Pascale Pollier, and Theo Dirix for contributing this article to "Medical Terminology Daily" and the quest to find and study Andreas Vesalius' grave. I am proud to have been one of the many international attendees to the 2014 meeting in the island of Zakynthos. Dr. Miranda.

Original photograph of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Zakynthos, Greece
Original photograph of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Zakynthos, Greece.
Click on the image for a larger depiction