The onset of World War II instigated a temporary crisis in the North American medical community. Until the Second World War every Faculty of Medicine in North America was dependent on one of two anatomical text books: Werner Spalteholz’s Hand Atlas of Human Anatomy or Johannes Sobotta’s Atlas of Human Anatomy. While English-language editions of these texts were printed in North America, these multi-volume atlases were based on the dissecting practices of European anatomists and drawn by illustrators and largely financed by German publishing houses.
During the war Dr. J. C. B. Grant , an anatomist working at the University of Toronto, approached the Philadelphia publisher Williams and Wilkins to initiate a new anatomical atlas. Grant’s timely proposal would feature a set of new illustrations by a team of highly skilled and predominantly female medical illustrators such as Dorothy Chubb. Later editions of Grant’t Atlas would inlcude conributions from Nancy Joy, Elizabeth Blackstock, and Marguerite Drummond. J.C.B Grant published 6 editions of Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy. It is still being published today by Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins and is currently in its twelfth edition. Dr. Anne Agur and Dr. Arthur Dalley are the current editor of The Atlas.
In the 1990s Lippincott, Wiliams and Wilkins sent a crate containing the original drawings back to the University of Toronto. They have been housed in storage cabinets at the program of Biomedical Communication (St. George Campus) since this time. The first phase in this three year SSHRC*-funded research project is to transform this remarkable collection of images into a useful archive with a functioning meta-database. We are also researching the story of the production of Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy , the anatomist, this remarkable group of illustrators, and the illustrations. The final stage of our collective research will involve the public dissemination of the collection and our research in articles, books and in an exhibition of the works.
* Social Science and Humanities Research Council. This arms-length federal government-sponsored Canadian organization funds academic research through a competitive, peer-reviewed selection process.