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Scienceart - Anatomy of an artist

What's it all about?

To teach medical students about the structure of the human hand, Professor Gus McGrouther could use 3D videos or computer-generated images. Instead, the professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery research at the University of Manchester uses the 500-year-old anatomical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, writes Lucy Keane.

The professor stumbled across Da Vinci's drawings when he was producing his own medical book on the human thumb.

"Leonardo shows the anatomy in such a way that it is easy to see it as a machine," Professor McGrouther says. "The tendons, which control muscles, are often drawn as strings, but the effect and demonstration of how they function is so clear."

Now the largest ever exhibition of the artist's studies on the human body is on show at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace, London, until 7 October.

Da Vinci was a pioneer in understanding the human body. If his detailed drawings had not been lost for almost 400 years, medical progress might have been more rapid.

Through his anatomical studies, Da Vinci tested contemporary theories of ideal proportion, conception and growth, the senses, memory and fantasy, even the soul. Working in hospitals and medical schools, he dissected bodies to investigate their bones, muscles, vessels and organs.

Details of the Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist exhibition and associated resources are at anatomist

What else?

Watch Dr Alice Roberts turn pupils' bodies inside out with her anatomical drawing skills on - or test Da Vinci's theories of proportion with an experiment from amanda goddard. Check out the TES Da Vinci collection for more on the man and his work.

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