Review: The Secret Language of Anatomy

Review: The Secret Language of Anatomy

“… with a sense of wonder and whimsy, this book reveals the thoughtfulness of anatomists through the ages”

Did you know you have a harp in your heart (chordae tendinae), a snail in your ear (cochlea) and a beehive in your lungs (alveoli)? In their newly released book The Secret Language of Anatomy, Cecilia Brassett, Emily Evans and Isla Fay explore the etymological roots of anatomical terms in an elegant but playful way. The authors will be familiar to Cambridge medics – with Brassett and Fay heading up the anatomy course and Evans a senior demonstrator in the dissection room. Evans is also a medical illustrator and owner of an online boutique selling anatomical art and homewares designed by her (anatomyboutique.com). Each page of the book selects a term, explains its roots, where it is found in the body and is accompanied by two illustrations by Evans – one of the item and one of its anatomical homologue. Suitable for the squeamish, the monochrome line drawings are accurate but spare the gore. The terms are grouped in categories such as architecture, birds and music and each category has a short preface punctuating the book with historical insight into anatomy and the anatomists that shaped the field.

Students of biological sciences, particularly anatomy, know the dread of memorising hundreds of seemingly arbitrary names, cursing whoever it was that chose them. But with a sense of wonder and whimsy, this book reveals the thoughtfulness of anatomists through the ages and urges you to view your body with new eyes.

The Secret Language of Anatomy by Cecilia Brassett, Emily Evans and Isla Fay was publised by Lotus Publishing in 2017. Reviewed by Rachel Fox. Photo by Emily Evans