VIRTUOSO HISTORY OF MEDICAL ILLUSTRATORS
Rama medical college, Kanpur
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen” – Leonardo Da Vinci
The first language of communication in the world was paintings, which appeared even before words, in the form of cave paintings, 30,000 years ago. Have you ever wondered how this curious journey of drawing the “human body”,one of the god’s masterpieces, started? Well, it began with cave man who drew the heart in a mammoth estimating the position through the heart beats felt.
Busting myths with books of accurate strokes
In earlier times, the heart was considered the source of all emotions, intelligence, wisdom and thinking which was later disapproved by great physicians like Herophilus and artists who worked in symbiosis, showing that the brain controls our body and heart perfuses it with life.
One of the greatest Belgian anatomists and physicians- Andreas Versalius gave the first complete and systematic description of the human body produced in Europe: “De Humani Corporis Fabrica”- a path-breaker, it also proved the studies of Galen’s anatomy to be incorrect. Versalius commissioned a student of Titan and other fine artists to create anatomical masterpieces for his book and guided them through it. “Fasciculus Medicinae” – the first medical illustration to appear in print, was created in Italy, by an unknown artist but under the guidance of physician Johannes de Ketham.
Legends and their master strokes in medicine
Artists have made it easier for science to be visualized, understood, absorbed and delivered in the best possible way.
The genius and most celebrated artist of all time- Leonardo Da Vinci – made some great and detailed images of the human skeleton, muscles, tendon, ligaments and much more from all the dissections he had performed. He clarified not only anatomy but also escalated the knowledge we have about possible diagnosis and treatment of various pathologies.
The “Surgeon-artist” Dr.Frank Netter, MD illustrated a series of atlases with each volume individually devoted to anatomy, embryology, physiology, pathology of different organ systems, at least one volume of which surely lies with every medical student across the world till date. He was a man of utter brilliance who used his medical insight to illustrate the complexities of the human body, and he surely deserves to be called the “modern day Da Vinci ”.
The “father of modern medical illustrations”is an American named Max Brodel, who beautifully balanced medical knowledge and artistic knowledge to revolutionise the whole medical learning arena.Initially, he went to John Hopkins in USA, where he illustrated the work of Harvey Cushing, William Halsted and many more. His surgical illustrations were well known. The legacy he left was the first school of medical illustrations, established at John Hopkins University.
The difference between a medical illustrator and other fine artists lies in the amount of accuracy and the subject. Medical illustrations have revolutionised the efficiency and retention of the seemingly endless medical syllabus. One might begin with art but end with medicine, or start with medicine and find oneself ensconced in art.