31. The Making of Mr Gray’s Anatomy

Richardson: Making of Mr Gray's Anatomy

“What’s so wonderful about Carter’s illustrations [for Gray’s Anatomy] is that they are not abject people, they are not shown as lumps of meat, they’re not shown as undignified, they’re not shown in pain. In fact, many of the illustrations are quite noble…

“It’s the first real anatomy book for students to be published since the development of chloroform, anaesthesia in general, and I think these bodies are chloroformed bodies. They are not being treated as though they are social outcasts; they’re being treated as human beings.”

My guest on this week’s programme is medical historian, Ruth Richardson. Ruth has written a fascinating history of how the most famous medical textbook of all time came to be written – Gray’s Anatomy, which is still going strong after more than 150 years and 40 editions.

She shows that its success was down to not just Henry Gray, who wrote the text, but also to Henry Carter, who provided the illustrations.

In the interview we talk about the very different fates of these two men and also about how medicine as a career was changing in the mid-nineteenth century. But, as you’ll hear, much of Ruth’s sympathies go to the workhouse poor, who in death provided the models for the illustrations in the book.

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