The Washington Post
The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomyby Bill Hayes
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/b>… See more details below
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.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
“In his cunningly structured, beautifully written anatomy of Gray’s Anatomy, Bill Hayes dissects the body’s secrets, the lives of two great nineteenth-century explorers of those secrets–and some of his own obsession as well. A lovely book.”
–Andrea Barett, author of Ship Fever
“Bill Hayes has written a thrilling book that is simultaneously an autobiography, a biography of Henry Gray, a scientific essay on our human anatomy, and a heart-breaking elegy. I do not know another book like it.”
–Richard Rodriguez, author of Hunger of Memory
“The Anatomist is many things: a study of the body after life has left it, a chronicle of scientists obsessed with the subject, and, in a heartbreakingly personal way, a memoir. It is also a reflection about how little was known about disease not that long ago. Finally, it is a biography of an anxious, neurotic, enormously sympathetic young anatomist from another time who changed medicine. This is a wonderful book.”
–Robert M. Sapolsky, author of A Primate’s Memoir
“Hayes pays eloquent tribute to two masterpieces: the human body and the book detailing it. . . . [He balances] biographical chapters with his own experience in the anatomy classroom, dissecting cadavers and marveling at each new discovery with prose both lucid and arrestingly beautiful.”
- Random House Publishing Group
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