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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Latissimus dorsi

The latissimus dorsi muscle is a large, wide, flat muscle on the posteroinferior aspect of the back. It has the shape of a triangle that has a base at the thoracolumbar spine and its apex in the axillary region.

This muscle has a wide origin by tendons that attach to the spinous processes of the lower six or seven thoracic vertebrae as well as those of the lumbar vertebrae, the sacral crest, and the posterior aspect of the external lip of the iliac crest. This created a wide fibrotendinous lamina known as the thoracolumbar fascia. The muscle also attaches to the external surface of the three or four inferiormost ribs and the inferior angle of the scapula.

From here, the muscle fibers converge superolaterally and twist anterosuperiorly to form a quadrilateral tendon that inserts deep into the bicipital groove (Lat: sulcus intertubercularis) of the humerus as shown by number 5 in the accompanying figure. There is sometimes a tendinous extension to the humeral lesser tubercle.

The latissimus dorsi extends, adducts, and medially rotates the shoulder joint, also known as the glenohumeral joint. Along with the teres major muscle they are known as the “handcuff muscles”, as this is the action of these muscles as the hands are brought together towards the back. The latissimus dorsi is innervated by the thoracodorsal (or long subscapular) nerve (C6, C7, and C8).

Latissimus dorsi muscle (1) - Testut & Latarjet 1931. Public domain
Latissimus dorsi muscle (1)
Click on the image for a larger depiction

The Terminologia Anatomica 2 proper name is “musculus latissimus dorsi”. The plural form is “musculi latissimi dorsi”. The name of the muscle is derived from Latin. Since “latum” means “wide”, “musculus latissimus dorsi” means the “widest muscle of the back”, quite a proper name. In other languages this is more evident. In Spanish, the name for the muscle is [músculo dorsal ancho] meaning the “wide muscle of the back”.

The latissimus dorsi is one of the 17 muscles that attach to the scapula. It also forms one of the borders of the lumbar triangle of Petit, potential site for a lumbar hernia.

1. “Gray’s Anatomy” Henry Gray, 1918
2. "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8th Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
3. "Gray's Anatomy" 42nd British Ed. Churchill Livingstone 2021
4. “An Illustrated Atlas of the Skeletal Muscles” Bowden, B. 4th Ed. Morton Publishing. 2015
5. "Trail Guide to The Body" 4th. Ed. Biel, A. Books of Discovery. 2010