Book Review  |   February 2009
Atlas of Anatomy
Author Affiliations
  • Patrick M. Coughlin, PhD
    Department of Anatomy, Coordinator, Distance and Distributed Learning Systems, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Developer of The Dynamic Spine, Philadelphia, Pa
Article Information
Book Review   |   February 2009
Atlas of Anatomy
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, February 2009, Vol. 109, 102-103. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, February 2009, Vol. 109, 102-103. doi:
Atlas of Anatomy is one of a suite of products featuring the anatomic illustrations of award-winning German artists Markus Voll and Karl Wesker. 
In addition, each of the book's authors is an anatomist and educator. Anne M. Gilroy, MA, is an assistant professor of surgery and cell biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. Brian R. MacPherson, PhD, is vice chair and Hol-singer Endowed Professor of Anatomy at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine's Chandler Medical Center in Lexington. Lawrence M. Ross, MD, PhD, is an adjunct professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston. 
The atlas is organized into seven sections by body region with a total of 42 chapters. Each section—back, thorax, abdomen and pelvis, upper limbs, lower limbs, head and neck, and neuroanatomy—makes use of color-coded corner tabs, making access fairly quick and easy. 
The book features 2-page-spread layouts, in which related structures and concepts are grouped. In addition to illustrations, pages are often supplemented with images from radiography, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. Quick reference tables supplement these images, as do clinical correlates. 
The illustrations by Voll and Wesker are exquisite—reminiscent of those found in the several editions of Sobotta Atlas of Human Anatomy. The shading and color used are extremely detailed and visually pleasing. Ghosted illustrations highlight structures of interest. Illustration labeling is easy to read. In addition, a large number of schematics make visualization conceptually simpler for the medical student. 
The text content in each section is built from the inside out, with a consistent progression from bones and ligaments to muscles to organs and, finally, neurovasculature. 
At the end of each section is a special chapter on surface anatomy of the region of interest, including questions for the reader, such as (in the thorax section), “A female patient has given a history of detecting a `lump' during self-examinations. How would you proceed? Where would you palpate for lymph nodes?” Answers to these questions are provided in the appendix. 
In the extremities sections, schematics of muscle attachments are included, giving the student an excellent visual tool for understanding muscle actions. Like many other atlases, the head and neck section contains a chapter dedicated to cranial nerves. 
The neuroanatomy section deserves special mention. In addition to providing standard illustrations of the brain and spinal cord, the authors address major tracts of the central nervous system. The completeness of this section renders it useful to students of neuroscience. 
Purchase of Atlas of Anatomy provides “free” access to with the use of a unique access code obtained in a scratch-off panel inside the book. The Web site is an interactive online supplement and study aid that features a subset of high-quality anatomic illustrations from the atlas with lined labels for “must-know” structures. 
The Web site is not particularly intuitive, and it takes some time to become accustomed to the navigation system. However, once that task is accomplished, the Web site is fairly easy to use. The labels can be toggled on and off for self-guided memorization exercises. Unlabeled radiographic images are also available on the Web site. 
When the Web site is loaded into the browser, a zoom function allows the user to enlarge the image for more detailed examination without any loss of resolution. When using this zoom function, unfortunately, the resulting image is often larger than the window in the browser, forcing the user to spend a significant amount of time dragging the image to view all structures—even when using a 17-inch monitor. 
The Web site is equipped with a timed-testing and self-assessment feature in which the user is instructed to drag the correct labels to designated “hotspots” on the image. When assessment of the user's performance is completed, text feedback identifies incorrect labels along with the correct answers. I found this exercise to be a bit confusing because the resolution of images is such that the end of the label line is not clear occasionally, making it difficult to view the structure to be identified. 
Finally, it should be noted that images on are not downloadable. However, the site's host, Thieme Publishers, also produces the Thieme Teaching Assistant (at a cost of $950), a Web-based presentation tool from which faculty can place images in Microsoft PowerPoint presentations and PDF (Adobe portable document format) documents. Potential users can view a demonstration of this tool on the site. 
Overall, Atlas of Anatomy is a very useful tool for the medical student. It provides complete and informative coverage of the subject matter with the highest quality artwork available in any atlas. 
In this era of digital audio, electronic slide shows, and online course-management systems, some medical school students may decide that an atlas such as this may substitute for a textbook, though I'm sure that most faculty would disagree. Nevertheless, Atlas of Anatomy serves as an excellent source of high-yield information and is highly recommended. 
 By Anne M. Gilroy, Brian R. MacPerson, and Lawrence M. Ross. 656 pp, $74.95. ISBN: 978-1-60406-062-1. New York, NY: Thieme Medical Publishers; 2008.
 Editor's Note: Corrections to this article were published in the July 2009 issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (2009;109:388). The corrections have been incorporated in this online version of the article, which was posted December 2009. An explanation of these changes is available at: