Medical and Scientific Illustration

Are there some good books that collect these? I’m thinking of the sort of things you’d find in Gray’s Anatomy, or a naturalist’s sketchbook, but collected and presented more for their artistic value than their scientific value.

Well, an article I just read on Vesalius cites a book called The Illustrations from the Works of Andreas Vesalius of Brussels – after a quick check of it appears that it’s still available and fairly inexpensive. This would appear to be the sort of thing you’re looking for – and the Vesalius illustrations are really intriguing. The article I mentioned talks about how the figures in it are presented more or less as classical sculptures who just happen to have internal organs, and argues for this presentation being a result of the general taboo against the practice of dissecting cadavers – the pictures disassociate themselves from their origins.

Andreas Vesalius was the first name that came into my mind when I saw this thread title.

This is a site that shows some of his illustrations. Live-action skeletons!

Vesalius’s work is beautiful! I’ll be giving him a closer look.

An MD friend of mine suggested someone named Netter. Anyone familiar with his work?

Frank H. Netter wrote the Atlas of Human Anatomy. It’s quite an excellent book, and I consider myself lucky if I have access to it. It’s quite expensive (Amazon sells it for $64.95 for the paperback version), or else I would have bought a copy for myself.

The problem that I have with Gray’s is that often, the drawings are too detailed for what I need. (I work in radiology billing, and I often need to look up various body parts so I know how to code them.) When I’ve had access to Netter, my job gets a lot easier.


When I first saw this thread a couple of days ago, the first medical artist I thought about was Frank Netter. I searched for a site that might show enough of his illustrations (without reducing them to thumbnail size) to give you a sense of his work. I gave up essentially empty handed*. So I never posted.

In any case, Frank Netter is probably known and revered by most people who went through medical school from the 60’s on. His style was both unintimidating yet full of detail. I always thought they had a Rockwell look about them. Yes, I know that’s bizarre to say that about a picture of your brain, but there you have it.

One of the interesting things about Netter is that he did much of his work (maybe all) under contract to CIBA-Geigy (a pharmaceutical house). Every month or so, I’d receive, free of charge, a wonderful little booklet on this subject or that illustrated by Netter. I saved my collection for years.

I should be honest. There’s no way that Netter is in the ranks of Vesalius. Still, his work was unique. It appealed to me in a way that no other medical illustrator had, before or since.

[sub][sup]*The reason for the lack of his illustrations available on the Net is that most of his stuff is still very much for sale. Do a search for “Netter + CIBA” and you’ll find lots of ads for books using his illustrations. The fact that there are so many still for sale is testimony to his reputation.[/sup][/sub]

MsRobyn, my MD friend who praised Netter did so at Gray’s expense. However, he also said there are differences between the U.S. and U.K. editions of Gray’s, and that the U.K. edition is better.

But not better than Netter, heh.