Gray’s Anatomy

I’m not talking about the ABC show, I’m talking about the celebrating medical textbook…one of the most famous medical books of all time.  Henry Gray’s name is on the cover.  But the reason the book was so influential was because it was the result of a powerful collaboration: between Henry Gray, and a second surgeon, Henry Vandyke Carter.  In fact, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (a review of the new book The Making of Mr. Gray’s Anatomy) suggests that Carter should get perhaps even more of the credit–because Carter was the illustrator, and a big part of the reason that the book was so important was due to its illustrations.

Gray and Carter were surgical colleagues at St. George’s Hospital in London. Gray initiated the collaboration because he knew that Carter was a talented illustrator (Carter’s family wasn’t wealthy, and Carter earned extra money by selling illustrations).  Gray, ten years senior and with a bit more money, paid Carter a monthly fee for each of the 15 months that he worked on the drawings.  They ended up working together 20 months–dissecting together, then with Gray writing and Carter illustrating.

An influential creative work that we attribute to a solitary genius, once again turns out to be the result of collaboration!

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