Artatomical: Cheselden's Praying Dead


Prayer of the Dead. U.S. National Library of Medicine

William Cheselden (1688-1752) is something of a surgical legend. The Englishman performed the first known (complete) surgical cure for blindness and transformed bladder stone removal from an hour-long bit of butchery into a fast procedure with a 50 percent mortality rate -- a huge improvement at the time.

Cheselden also gave the world "Osteographia," his 1733 book on "the anatomy of the bones." It was a groundbreaking text, both in terms of published data on the skeletal system and the use of anatomical illustrations. As usual, the illustrations within contain quite a few artistic flourishes, from the skeleton in prayer above to the tableaus of man and beast below:

Crocodile of the dead.
Public Domain
Cats and dogs.
Public Domain
Drama of the Dead.
Public Domain
Leisure of the Dead.
U.S. National Library of Medicine

And there you have it. Explore more illustrations from Cheselden's work at the U.S. National Library of Medicine and The Public Domain Review.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.