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The classic medical text known as Gray’s Anatomy is one of the most famous books ever written. Now, on the 150th anniversary of its publication, acclaimed science writer and master of narrative nonfiction Bill Hayes has written the fascinating, never-before-told true story of how this seminal volume came to be. A blend of history, science, culture, and Hayes’s own personal experiences, The Anatomist is this author’s most accomplished and affecting work to date.

With passion and wit, Hayes explores the significance of Gray’s Anatomy and explains why it came to symbolize a turning point in medical history. But he does much, much more. Uncovering a treasure trove of forgotten letters and diaries, he illuminates the astonishing relationship between the fiercely gifted young anatomist Henry Gray and his younger collaborator H. V. Carter, whose exquisite anatomical illustrations are masterpieces of art and close observation. Tracing the triumphs and tragedies of these two extraordinary men, Hayes brings an equally extraordinary era–the mid-1800s–unforgettably to life.

But the journey Hayes takes us on is not only outward but inward–through the blood and tissue and organs of the human body– for The Anatomist chronicles Hayes’s year as a student of classical gross anatomy, performing with his own hands the dissections and examinations detailed by Henry Gray 150 years ago. As Hayes’s acquaintance with death deepens, he finds his understanding and appreciation of life deepening in unexpected and profoundly moving ways.

The Anatomist is more than just the story of a book. It is the story of the human body, a story whose beginning and end we all know and share but that, like all great stories, is infinitely rich in between.

Published: Random House Publishing Group an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780345504692
List price: $12.99
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“The Anatomist” is an unusual combination of biography, history, memoir and anatomy. Hayes wonders one day who the Grey of “Grey’s Anatomy” was and how he came to write the volume that has been a standard text for over a century. He finds little about Grey- none of his personal papers or effects survives- but he does find that Grey had a partner- the illustrator of the book. I’d always assumed that Grey had illustrated his book- frankly, I’d never given it a thought. His illustrator turns out to have been another physician, Henry V. Carter. Carter, son of an artist, was trained in drawing before he turned to doctoring. Carter and Grey shared a passion for dissection and anatomy, and were good friends before it ever occurred to Grey to create a new text. A dedicated diarist, Carter has left us a good record of his time with Grey and his anatomy classes, allowing Hayes to fill in a lot of the blanks as to the creation of the text. In between his discoveries about Carter and Grey, Hayes tells us about the anatomy classes he took. He is allowed to participate in three anatomy classes for medical students and physical therapists in training, including doing dissection. This allows him to get some idea of what Grey and Carter went through to get their educations- although the carefully preserved cadavers of today are a far cry from the putrescent ones that anatomy students had to deal with in Victorian times. Hayes comes away with a new appreciation for the human body and how it all works. Hayes made no stunning new discoveries, but the path his detective work took him on was interesting. It’s not a great book, but it’s a good one. I actually found myself more interested in the author’s work in the anatomy lab than in the story he’d started out to tell; he is able to give detailed descriptions of the process of dissection without being gross.more
Thank goodness the writers’ strike is over. Now, I can look forward to a new episode in popular drama, "Grey’s Anatomy." I so miss my McDreamy and McSteamy.To pass the time during reruns, I picked up "The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy" by Bill Hayes.For those unfamiliar with "Gray’s Anatomy," it is the quintessential reference book for medical students. In its 20th printing, this tome sits alongside other upper-echelon classic references such as "Webster’s Dictionary" and "Bulfinch’s Mythology." First printed in 1858, this year marks 150 years as a viable medical textbook.Author Hayes feels his whole life has led him to writing, “a book about a book about anatomy.” He cites two childhood favorite activities. First, his two best friends had doctor fathers who kept their medical books on the top most shelves in their respective studies. The boys would sneak in and pull down favorites then hide under desks mulling over the medical deformities for hours.The second activity gave Hayes a great power over his sisters. In his 1965 "World Book Encyclopedia," under H for Human Body, there were transparencies which included systems such as the skeletal, muscular, digestive, etc. Hayes took great pleasure in taunting his unsuspecting sisters with "Encyclopedia Man."While searching the book for a medical spelling Hayes thought, "Who wrote this thing?" The title page gave little more than Henry Gray, F.R.S. or Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons. Further digging at his local library left him discouraged. “Fascinating ‘biographies’ have been written about everything from the number zero to the color mauve, yet there is not one on Gray.”In Hayes’ research, he discovers Gray’s rise at St. George’s Hospital in London through title changes; “postmortem examiner (1854), curator of the Anatomical Museum (1852), lecturer in anatomy (1854), and so forth.” It is only through Gray’s illustrator Henry Vandyke Carter (an extensive diarist) that Hayes begins to unravel Gray’s personality.In The Anatomist, Hayes alternates between Carter’s diaries and his own experiences in modern-day anatomy class. I’m not sure what is more interesting, the intimate thoughts of a Victorian medical student or Hayes’ voice as he dissects the human body.Readers of this book will find themselves counting ribs, poking sternums, and trying to finger their mental foramen during the anatomy class sections, all without the unpleasant funk of formaldehyde.more
I thought I would really enjoy this but was disappointed. Instead of reading about Henry Gray you read mostly about the man who illustrated Gray's Anatomy.more
Read all 4 reviews

Reviews

“The Anatomist” is an unusual combination of biography, history, memoir and anatomy. Hayes wonders one day who the Grey of “Grey’s Anatomy” was and how he came to write the volume that has been a standard text for over a century. He finds little about Grey- none of his personal papers or effects survives- but he does find that Grey had a partner- the illustrator of the book. I’d always assumed that Grey had illustrated his book- frankly, I’d never given it a thought. His illustrator turns out to have been another physician, Henry V. Carter. Carter, son of an artist, was trained in drawing before he turned to doctoring. Carter and Grey shared a passion for dissection and anatomy, and were good friends before it ever occurred to Grey to create a new text. A dedicated diarist, Carter has left us a good record of his time with Grey and his anatomy classes, allowing Hayes to fill in a lot of the blanks as to the creation of the text. In between his discoveries about Carter and Grey, Hayes tells us about the anatomy classes he took. He is allowed to participate in three anatomy classes for medical students and physical therapists in training, including doing dissection. This allows him to get some idea of what Grey and Carter went through to get their educations- although the carefully preserved cadavers of today are a far cry from the putrescent ones that anatomy students had to deal with in Victorian times. Hayes comes away with a new appreciation for the human body and how it all works. Hayes made no stunning new discoveries, but the path his detective work took him on was interesting. It’s not a great book, but it’s a good one. I actually found myself more interested in the author’s work in the anatomy lab than in the story he’d started out to tell; he is able to give detailed descriptions of the process of dissection without being gross.more
Thank goodness the writers’ strike is over. Now, I can look forward to a new episode in popular drama, "Grey’s Anatomy." I so miss my McDreamy and McSteamy.To pass the time during reruns, I picked up "The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy" by Bill Hayes.For those unfamiliar with "Gray’s Anatomy," it is the quintessential reference book for medical students. In its 20th printing, this tome sits alongside other upper-echelon classic references such as "Webster’s Dictionary" and "Bulfinch’s Mythology." First printed in 1858, this year marks 150 years as a viable medical textbook.Author Hayes feels his whole life has led him to writing, “a book about a book about anatomy.” He cites two childhood favorite activities. First, his two best friends had doctor fathers who kept their medical books on the top most shelves in their respective studies. The boys would sneak in and pull down favorites then hide under desks mulling over the medical deformities for hours.The second activity gave Hayes a great power over his sisters. In his 1965 "World Book Encyclopedia," under H for Human Body, there were transparencies which included systems such as the skeletal, muscular, digestive, etc. Hayes took great pleasure in taunting his unsuspecting sisters with "Encyclopedia Man."While searching the book for a medical spelling Hayes thought, "Who wrote this thing?" The title page gave little more than Henry Gray, F.R.S. or Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons. Further digging at his local library left him discouraged. “Fascinating ‘biographies’ have been written about everything from the number zero to the color mauve, yet there is not one on Gray.”In Hayes’ research, he discovers Gray’s rise at St. George’s Hospital in London through title changes; “postmortem examiner (1854), curator of the Anatomical Museum (1852), lecturer in anatomy (1854), and so forth.” It is only through Gray’s illustrator Henry Vandyke Carter (an extensive diarist) that Hayes begins to unravel Gray’s personality.In The Anatomist, Hayes alternates between Carter’s diaries and his own experiences in modern-day anatomy class. I’m not sure what is more interesting, the intimate thoughts of a Victorian medical student or Hayes’ voice as he dissects the human body.Readers of this book will find themselves counting ribs, poking sternums, and trying to finger their mental foramen during the anatomy class sections, all without the unpleasant funk of formaldehyde.more
I thought I would really enjoy this but was disappointed. Instead of reading about Henry Gray you read mostly about the man who illustrated Gray's Anatomy.more
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