To my dear wife, Vera
Frank H. Netter, MD
rank H. Netter was born in New York City in 1906.
He studied art at the Art Students League and the
publications featuring the art of Dr. Netter available through
Elsevier Inc.
Dr. Netter’s works are among the finest examples
of the use of illustration in the teaching of medical concepts.
The 13-book
Netter Collection of Medical Illustrations,
includes the greater part of the more than 20,000 paintings
created by Dr. Netter, became and remains one of the most
famous medical works ever published.
The Netter Atlas of
Human Anatomy,
first published in 1989, presents the ana-
tomic paintings from the Netter Collection. Now translated
into 16 languages, it is the anatomy atlas of choice among
medical and health professions students the world over.
The Netter illustrations are appreciated not only for
their aesthetic qualities, but, more importantly, for their
intellectual content. As Dr. Netter wrote in 1949 “clarification
of a subject is the aim and goal of illustration. No matter
how beautifully painted, how delicately and subtly rendered
a subject may be, it is of little value as a
medical illustration
if it does not serve to make clear some medical point.” Dr.
Netter’s planning, conception, point of view, and approach
are what inform his paintings and what make them so intel-
lectually valuable.
Frank H. Netter, MD, physician and artist, died in
medical school at New York University, where he received
his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1931. During his student
years, Dr. Netter’s notebook sketches attracted the atten-
tion of the medical faculty and other physicians, allowing
him to augment his income by illustrating articles and
textbooks. He continued illustrating as a sideline after
establishing a surgical practice in 1933, but he ultimately
opted to give up his practice in favor of a full-time com-
mitment to art. After service in the United States Army
during World War II, Dr. Netter began his long collabora-
tion with the CIBA Pharmaceutical Company (now Novartis
Pharmaceuticals). This 45-year partnership resulted in the
production of the extraordinary collection of medical art so
familiar to physicians and other medical professionals
Icon Learning Systems acquired the Netter Collec-
tion in July 2000 and continued to update Dr. Netter’s origi-
nal paintings and to add newly commissioned paintings by
artists trained in the style of Dr. Netter. In 2005, Elsevier
Inc. purchased the Netter Collection and all publications
from Icon Learning Systems. There are now over 50
Preface to the First Edition
have often said that my career as a medical artist for
almost 50 years has been a sort of “command perfor-
mance” in the sense that it has grown in response to the
nomenclature. This therefore required much updating of
many of the older pictures and even revision of a number of
them in order to make them more pertinent to today’s ever-
expanding scope of medical and surgical practice. In addi-
tion, I found that there were gaps in the portrayal of medical
knowledge as pictorialized in the illustrations I had previ-
ously done, and this necessitated my making a number of
new pictures that are included in this volume.
In creating an atlas such as this, it is important to
achieve a happy medium between complexity and simplifica-
tion. If the pictures are too complex, they may be difficult and
confusing to read; if oversimplified, they may not be ade-
quately definitive or may even be misleading. I have therefore
striven for a middle course of realism without the clutter of
confusing minutiae. I hope that the students and members of
the medical and allied professions will find the illustrations
readily understandable, yet instructive and useful.
At one point, the publisher and I thought it might be
nice to include a foreword by a truly outstanding and
renowned anatomist, but there are so many in that category
that we could not make a choice. We did think of men like
Vesalius, Leonardo da Vinci, William Hunter, and Henry Gray,
who of course are unfortunately unavailable, but I do wonder
what their comments might have been about this atlas.
Frank H. Netter, MD
desires and requests of the medical profession. Over these
many years, I have produced almost 4,000 illustrations,
mostly for
Collection of Medical Illus-
but also for
Clinical Symposia.
These pictures have
been concerned with the varied subdivisions of medical
knowledge such as gross anatomy, histology, embryology,
physiology, pathology, diagnostic modalities, surgical and
therapeutic techniques, and clinical manifestations of a mul-
titude of diseases. As the years went by, however, there
were more and more requests from physicians and students
for me to produce an atlas purely of gross anatomy. Thus,
this atlas has come about, not through any inspiration on
my part but rather, like most of my previous works, as a
fulfillment of the desires of the medical profession.
It involved going back over all the illustrations I had
made over so many years, selecting those pertinent to gross
anatomy, classifying them and organizing them by system
and region, adapting them to page size and space, and
arranging them in logical sequence. Anatomy of course does
not change, but our understanding of anatomy and its clinical
significance does change, as do anatomical terminology and
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