Frank H. Netter, M.D.

Honored Member Award 1990

Frank H. Netter was born in 1906 in New York City. Encouraged largely by his mother, he studied art from an early age at the Art Student's League and the National Academy of Design. He graduated from The City College of New York and, with the encouragement of his father, enrolled in New York University School of Medicine, from which he graduated with his M.D. degree in 1931. During his medical student years, Dr. Netter's notebook sketches attracted the attention of the medical faculty and other physicians, allowing him to supplement his income by illustrating articles and textbooks. He completed additional training in surgery and established a surgical practice in 1933, but found that his artwork was more profitable than medicine. During World War II, Dr. Netter served in the United States Army and played a major role in illustrating training manuals used by the Armed Forces. Following his service, Dr. Netter began a 45-year collaboration with the CIBA Pharmaceutical Company (now Novartis Pharmaceuticals).

Dr. Netter's collaboration with CIBA resulted in the production of the extraordinary collection of medical art so familiar to physicians and other medical professionals worldwide. His 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, which includes the greater part of the more than 20,000 paintings created by Dr. Netter (many from his contributions to the Clinical Symposia), became and remains one of the most famous collections of medical work ever published. The Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy, first published in 1989 and now in its Third Edition, presents a selection of anatomical paintings from the Netter Collection. Now translated into 11 languages, it is the anatomy atlas of choice among thousands of medical and health professions students the world over. Icon Learning Systems, a subsidiary of MediMedia USA, Inc., acquired the Netter Collection in 2000 and has recently published Netter's Atlas of Human PhysiologyNetter's Atlas of Human Embryology, and Netter's Atlas of Human Neuroscience, along with clinical specialty books in Internal Medicine, OB-GYN, Orthopaedics, and Cardiology. Netter's Anatomy Flash CardsNetter's Anatomical Charts and a variety of interactive CD-ROMs provide additional venues for students and health professionals who wish to learn from the marvelous Netter illustrations.

The Netter illustrations are appreciated not only for their aesthetic qualities but also for their intellectual content. Dr. Netter said it best: "...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 masterful planning, conception, point of view, and approach inform each of his paintings and what make them so intellectually valuable.

Frank H. Netter, M.D., physician and artist, died in 1991, but his legacy will continue to inform and touch new generations of health professionals.