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City Optometry academics’ ongoing contribution to Gray’s Anatomy

Academics from the Division of Optometry and Visual Sciences have been writing the ocular chapters of the world famous Gray’s Anatomy for thirty years.

by Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer)

For the last thirty years optometry academics at City have edited the eye and orbit chapters of the world famous medical textbook, Gray’s Anatomy, which was published in its 42nd edition last week.  

For the last fifteen years, the responsibility of editing these chapters has fallen to John Lawrenson, Professor of Clinical Visual Science and Ron Douglas Professor of Visual Science, both from the School of Health Sciences. They follow in the footsteps of their colleague, the late Gordon Ruskell, a classical anatomist who had been Professor of Ocular Anatomy at City.

Professor Ruskell made many fundamental discoveries in the field of ocular innervation, and educated optometrists at the university for almost 40 years. Not surprisingly, he became one of the section editors of Gray’s Anatomy and the author of two chapters on the eye and visual system for editions in the 1990s.

Professor Lawrenson and Professor Douglas became subsequent contributors and rewrote and updated Professor Ruskell’s original chapters for the 150th Anniversary edition (the 40th) of Gray’s Anatomy in 2008, including many of Ruskell’s unpublished drawings and microscopic images, generated from the microscope slide collection at City that has been used to teach generations of optometry students.

Anatomy; descriptive and surgical with text and dissections by Henry Gray and illustrations by Henry Vandyke Carter was first published as a relatively slim volume in 1858 and was an immediate bestseller. It has been known, if not always loved, to generations of medical students throughout the world as simply Gray’s Anatomy and has never been out of print in either the UK or America since its initial publication. Arguably, it is the most successful and influential textbook ever written.

Gray died at the age of only 34 of smallpox just after the second edition was published in 1861.  However, such was the popularity of the book that it continued to flourish and has been rewritten on numerous occasions and now covers over 1,600 pages. The most recent editions contain none of the original authors’ drawings or text. Gray and Carter would be astonished by the changes in their book with the inclusion, for example, of many in vivo images created by the new generation of scanning techniques and its availability as an ebook.

Commenting on their work on the latest edition of Gray’s Anatomy, Professor Ron Douglas said:



In this edition we were asked to highlight ‘variation’. Students love certainty and want to be told that something is a certain way.  Sadly, life is rarely that simple.  Biology is endlessly variable and the eye is no exception.  You could probably identify your partner from their eyes alone, due to their unique external characteristics.  Internally, the eye is equally variable.

The contributions from Professor Lawrenson and Professor Douglas can be seen in chapters 44 and 45 of the 42nd, and latest edition of this classic book.

Find out more

Read more about the latest edition of Gray’s Anatomy on the Elsevier website.

Visit the Division of Optometry and Visual Sciences’ webpage.

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