About Frank H. Netter MD

Frank H. Netter MD

Photo reprinted with permission from Elsevier

Born in Manhattan in 1906, Frank H. Netter began his life with artistic aspirations, and by his late 20s was a successful commercial artist whose work appeared in national magazines. His family, however, urged him to pursue a more stable and respectable profession, and he abandoned his artwork to study medicine at New York University Medical College.

As a medical student, Netter drew as a means to study, producing visual representations of class notes that enabled him to understand and recall material. After graduation and a brief practice as a general surgeon, he traded his scalpel for a paintbrush and enjoyed a prolific career as a medical illustrator for pharmaceutical companies. The Ciba Collection of Medical Illustrations, a 13-volume set of Netter's work, earned a place in libraries and clinics across the country. In 1989 he published his eponymous "Atlas of Human Anatomy," which has been translated into at least 11 languages and is widely used by undergraduate medical students.

With his exceedingly rare combination of artistic talent and perspective as a physician, Netter brought his subject matter to life with stunning precision and clarity. As his acclaim grew, he found himself invited to illustrate cutting-edge medical advancements ranging from organ transplantation and joint replacement to the first artificial heart. His work not only granted unprecedented visual access to human anatomy and pathology, it was done with a striking level of empathy and humanity.

Netter's legacy transcends his life's work. A major gift from Barbara and the late Edward Netter, Frank Netter's first cousin, pays tribute to "Medicine's Michelangelo" in the naming of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University.

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