ISSN 2330-717X

Was Author Of Famed Gray’s Anatomy Textbook A Plagiarist?

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A new survey of historical evidence demonstrates that Henry Gray plagiarized parts of the first edition of his book, Gray’s Anatomy, the famed textbook of human anatomy that was initially published in 1858 and is currently in its 41st edition.

Included in the evidence are traits of character that exhibit Gray’s inclination towards garnering credit – intellectual and financial – to himself, to others’ cost.

“It was sad for Gray that he didn’t live long enough to acquire generosity. He’d stood on other people’s shoulders, but was in too much of a hurry to say thanks,” said Dr. Ruth Richardson, author of the Clinical Anatomy article that looks into the issue.

The first edition of “Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical” (1858) was greeted with accolades, but also provoked serious controversy concerning Henry Gray’s failure to acknowledge the work of earlier anatomists.

A review in the Medical Times (1859) accused Gray of intellectual theft. The journal took the unusual step of substantiating its indictment by publishing twenty parallel texts from Gray and from a pre-existing textbook, “Quain’s Anatomy”.

At the recent “Vesalius Continuum” conference in Zakynthos, Greece (2014) Professor Brion Benninger disputed the theft by announcing from the floor the results of a computer analysis of both texts, which he reported exonerated Gray by revealing no evidence of plagiarism.

That analysis, however has not been forthcoming, despite requests.

In this latest study, the historian of Gray’s Anatomy supplements the argument set out in the Medical Times 150 years ago with data suggesting unwelcome personality traits in Henry Gray, and demonstrating the utility of others’ work to his professional advancement.

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