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Joseph Maclise’s Surgical Anatomy (1851)

Joseph Maclise’s Surgical Anatomy (1851)

by Safa, 4th year medical student at Exeter University

Joseph Maclise (1815-1880), a British anatomist born in Cork, studied anatomy at the University College in London. His book, Surgical Anatomy (1851), features a series of anatomical illustrations presented as lithographed prints, based on his dissections at the University College.

The bodies illustrated, often depicting young, good-looking men, were extremely beautiful and life-like, with detailed facial expressions, muscle tone, hair, and elegant poses.

In his British editions, several of the plates featured a handsome, young, black man. However, these original images were viewed as too controversial for the American scientific community, particularly in the South where slavery was still being practiced.  Hence, American editions of Maclise’s Surgical Anatomy replaced the original man depicted with another who appears to be white.