Henry Vandyke Carter was born on 22 May 1831, and was the eldest son of the artist Henry Barlow Carter.
He was formally educated at Hull Grammar School before apprenticing as an apothecary-surgeon and taking medical courses at St George’s Hospital in London. In June 1853, Carter became a student in human and comparative anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons, where he worked with Richard Owen and John Thomas Quekett. In December 1854, he earned a Bachelor of Medicine degree at the University of London.
He began work for Henry Gray and others in 1852, and in 1856-7 he drew the illustrations for the now famously illustrated Gray’s Anatomy. During this time, he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of London. The publishers of the first edition wanted to ascribe joint authorship of the book to Carter as his illustrations were just about as noteworthy as the text but Gray objected.
In 1858 Carter joined the Indian Medical Service and moved to Bombay where he took up the post of Professor of Anatomy at Grant Medical College.
He remained in Bombay until his retirement in 1888, when he returned to Scarborough to live near his sister Lily.
In retirement, Carter was appointed “Honorary Deputy Surgeon-General and Honorary Surgeon to the Queen”. He died of tuberculosis in Scarborough, North Yorkshire on 4 May 1897. He is buried in Manor Road Cemetery in Scarborough.
In June 2008 a Blue Plaque was unveiled in honour of former Scarborough Artist and Surgeon, Henry Vandyke Carter, who illustrated and contributed to the research of the most famous anatomy textbook in the world. The event was to mark the 150th anniversary of the first publication in 1858 of Gray’s Anatomy.