This is a real gem of a book that explores the wonders of the human body. Written by Richard Walker with Robert Winston acting as Editorial Consultant, this is an incredible book that is both informative and visually stunning. It uses vivid 3D visualisations of the body – made from computer reconstructions of photographs taken of 1mm slices of a frozen dead body (donated to science). The book gives a reasonable amount of detail about how this was done. The photographs are then labelled and a 3D wireframe model is made up of the whole body, with colours and textures then applied from the information in the photographs. This creates some of the most startling images you are ever likely to see.
The pictures show everything from the skeletal form through to the nervi, musculature, lymphatic system, and circulatory system. The level of clarity and detail is incredible, and just looking at these pictures is both fascinating and enlightening. However this isn’t just a picture book, each part of the body is explained for us. Since I’ve worked in the health service for several years I’m already pretty familiar with most of it, but this book helped me really appreciate the level of complexity various body parts (which we take for granted) actually have. It is written in a plain, matter of fact style that makes it easy to understand but in no way does it “dumb down” and it doesn’t shy away from medical terminology. I don’t think this would really be a problem for the novice though as you can actually see
what the terminology refers to.
On some of the pictures there are overlays that, for example, describe the digestive system, showing the route food takes and what happens to it at each stage. It also gives the time for each event – did you know that it takes your food ten minutes to reach your stomach after you swallow it?!? For each main sub-section there is a “Did You Know?” feature, a small box containing an interesting (and relevant, of course) factoid. For instance, when discussing the reproductive system, the factoid is that when sperm were first discovered in 1677, many scientists believed that each one contained a tiny, perfectly formed human called an homunculus. It wasn’t until the 19th century that scientists realised that the sperm had to be fertilised before an embryo could develop. Or when talking about the stomach, it recounts the story of a Fur Trapper named Alexis St Martin’s freak accident in 1822 when he somehow managed to shoot himself in the side, leaving a permanent opening to his stomach. He was treated by Dr William Beaumont, and American Army Surgeon who (presumably with St. Martin’s consent) used this for 11 years to conduct experiments, including dangling various foods into his stomach and seeing how long they took to digest. He published his findings to great acclaim in 1833.
Speaking of stomachs, if all this is turning yours then you’re probably in the only group of people I wouldn’t recommend this book to – the queasy. It doesn’t shy away from anything, it just tells things exactly as they are. Having worked as a Medical Secretary for quite a while now (yes there are male Medical Secretaries, no it wasn’t exactly a career choice, it just sort of happened), there is practically nothing that could put me off my food. (Typing a letter about a patient coughing up green sputum while eating a guacamole? No problem!!) If you are of a queasy disposition this probably isn’t for you.
If however you are fascinated by the way we humans are made, and would like to see and understand more about how we work, then this is a priceless book. It is split into four sections: Body Systems Head Upper Body Lower Body
The fourth section also contains a glossary and index. BODY
is an incredible book, with wonderful layout and design as well as effective text and astonishing images, making it more a work of art than a piece of literature. The fact that it’s ring-bound aids the pages being fully opened up for the best effect and it’s printed on high quality glossy paper emphasises that feeling. From the mildly interested man or woman in the street to the medical student, this is a book you’ll never regret buying. It’s retail price of £12.99 (about $25 at current exchange rates) isn’t really too much for a book of this quality, but I got it for £6 (around $12) from “The Book People”.
As if that wasn’t enough, the book comes with a CD containing the programme “Primal Body 3D”. This gives you a 3 body that you can rotate, zoom in and out of, explore various areas in detail, show nerve and muscle layers, and save the images to file for use later. Probably more useful to someone who might use it to create visuals for a lecture etc, I found this far less interesting than the book itself. Still, a nice addition and the book on its own is already easily worth the asking price.