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Carswell Drawings

1,025 individual water-colours

Link to Special Collections Digital Archive The Carswell Drawings Collection consists of pathological drawings dated 1827-1838 by Sir Robert Carswell (1793-1857), Professor of Pathological Anatomy, UCL Medical School 1831-1840. Carswell was born in Paisley, Scotland and studied medicine at the University of Glasgow. As a student he was distinguished for his skill in drawing and was employed by Dr John Thompson of Edinburgh to make a collection of drawings illustrating morbid anatomy. In pursuance of this, Carswell went to France in 1822 where he worked for two years in hospitals in Paris and Lyon. He later returned to Paris which, at this time, was a centre of excellence for pathological research to resume his studies in morbid anatomy. Carswell was a superb draughtsman and an accurate observer and the drawings are extremely beautiful as works of art. In 1837 he published his great work on pathological anatomy entitled Illustrations of the Elementary Forms of Disease. This fine folio contains remarkably well-executed plates which were furnished from his large store of drawings.

Link to Special Collections Digital  Archive This unique collection of groundbreaking work is a valuable resource for medical history researchers as it offers a fascinating perspective on medicine in the early nineteenth century, a significant period in the development of the field of anatomy. It was during this time that anatomy began to flourish as a new scientific discipline and it became clear that it should form an essential part of medical training. In 1832 the Anatomy Act was passed legalising the use of cadavers in the event of the body being unclaimed. This allowed medical schools access to a good supply of corpses for dissection and the discipline finally gained respectability after many years of being blighted by the practice of body snatchers and resurrectionists.

The collection contains many items of historical significance, notably the first illustrations of the pathology in Hodgkin's Disease, the first portrayal of the lesions on the spinal cord in Multiple Sclerosis and the first depictions of iron deficiency anaemia. The collection also comprises approximately 1000 watercolour and ink drawings, of various dimensions, of diseased structures divided into groups by subject. The collection also includes some manuscript notes contained in four volumes bound in hard covers and one box of partly bound loose sheets in Carswell's hand.


Last modified 14 May 2007

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