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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 

Martin Naboth, title page of De Sterelitate Mulierum 

Martin Naboth
(1675 – 1721)

Not much is known about this German physician and anatomist. He was born in 1675 in Calau, a town in Southern Brandenburg, Germany. He studied medicine at the University in Leipzig, receiving his doctorate in Philosophy in 1701 and his MD in 1703. Although his interests were based in chemistry, Naboth became an avid anatomist, with interest in the anatomy of the female reproductive system.

His main publication in 1707 was “De Sterilitate Mulierum” (On Sterility in Women). In this book he refers to small pearl-like transparent structures found in the uterine cervix. Believing that he had discovered the way women store eggs, he called these “ovarium novum” (new ovaries). His discovery was accepted by many and these structures came to be known as “Ovula Nabothii “. Only later were to understand these structures as cysts created by clogging of the opening of the glands found around the uterine cervix. These mucus-producing glands are known as the [cervical glands] and also as Nabothian glands. These cysts, which are common and do not represent a sign of cervical cancer, are known today as Nabothian cysts.

Naboth had only rediscovered these cysts first described in 1681 by Guillaume des Noues (1650 – 1735), although the eponym records Naboth’s name.

Naboth died in Leipzig in 1721 leaving a large anatomical collection. We have not been able to find an image of Naboth, so we are depicting the title page of his 1707 “De Sterilitate Mulierum”. If you click on the image you can see a larger depiction.

Sources
1. “Histoire de la M?decine, depuis son origine jusqu'au dix-neuvi?me si?cle” A. J. L. Jourdan ; E. F. M. Bosquillon  1815
2. “The Origin of Medical Terms” Skinner HA 1970 Hafner Publishing Co.


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The Strange and Short Life of “The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice”

The title of this article paraphrases the title of a paper authored by Edward Halperin, MD, MA., and published in “Academic Medicine,” the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges in February 2009. More information in the "Sources" section of this article. I have also used other sources to complete this "strange tale."

"The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice" was published in 1971  by Williams & Wilkins. A large and heavy book, it is one of the many anatomy books written for medical students. This one however, stirred a controversy because of the "tongue-in-cheek" writing style of the authors and mostly because of the photographs of female nude models in seductive poses pretending to depict surface anatomy. The pictures were taken by a famous photographer, Peter Gowland.

Initial reviews were positive, as stated in the British Journal of Surgery, where the book is praised saying: "one only wishes that such a book was available when one was a student in the dissecting room."

Other reviews were more negative, as Dr. Edward A. Edwards in 1972 states: "...I feel compelled to say that the numerous photographs of comely young women, while enticing, no not well demonstrate the muscles and bony points the legends suggest as their purpose." He also says: "The book is marred by a waggishness expressed in facetiousness and in long digressions...."

 The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice - Book Cover”
The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice - Book Cover
Click on the image for a larger version

Soon negative reactions to the book took place, many of them from anatomy professors who saw the illustrations as "out of place" and "not needed". Interestingly only a small percentage of the total images were of the "Playboy" style, while the rest of the images, photographs and sketches are of high educational quality.

Estelle R. Ramey, Emeritus Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, in a letter to the Association of Women in Science stated “In effect, the entire book is a calculated insult to women and men alike. It demeans the whole profession of medicine and is openly contemptuous of middle-aged women whose breasts are not so round and may even be rotting with cancer.” The AWIS as a whole threatened to boycott Williams and Wilkins Publishing, and as a result, the book was pulled off the market.

The story gets more interesting. Because of public pressure, angry letters to the publisher, and boycotts, the publisher agreed to sop all promotion, marketing, and sales of the book. Many assumed that they pulled the book off the market when, apparently because of low sales, they just let the initial run sell out by December 1972 and never republished it.

I do agree that the book transgresses the lines of decorum and respect for women that exist today. At the time of its publication the feminine movement was starting, and I think the authors tried to have a humorous approach to what is at best, a difficult subject. I wonder had the book been published 20 years before if the reaction would have been the same.

The book itself is a great book on anatomy and superficial anatomy, notwithstanding the images and comments. Since it was published and because of its scarcity, it has become a rare book, and as Dr. Halperin states “a minor collector’s item.” When published, this book sold for US$23.00. In 2009, at the time Dr. Halperin published his paper, the book was valued between US$ 89.00 and US$ 300.00; today (2022,) the book is valued between US$ 575.00 and US$1,000.00 in Abebooks.com.

"The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice" by Becker, R; Frederick; Wilson, James W; and Gehweiler, John, A. is one of the many books in my library and it has become known as “the green book” among my colleagues because of its bright green cloth hardcover. The image in this article is from the book in my library.

Sources:

1. “The Pornographic Anatomy Book? The Curious Tale of The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice" Halperin, E. Academic Medicine: February 2009 - Volume 84 - Issue 2 - p 278-283
2. "The anatomical basis of medical practice." By R. Frederick Becker, Ph.D., James W. Wilson, Ph.D., M.D., and John A. Gehweiler, M.D. 11 × 8¼ in. Pp. 907 + xv. Illustrated. 1971. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
3: "Five centuries of gender bias in anatomy" Elisabeth Brander — December 9, 2021
4. " The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice (NSFW)" September 10th, 2012
5. "The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice" by Becker, R; Frederick; Wilson, James W; and Gehweiler, John, A. 1971. The Williams & Wilkins Company
6. "The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice" Book Review by Edwards, E. Ach. Surg. 1972;104(2):227