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Human Anatomy: A Very Short Introduction

Leslie Klenerman. pp.176 Oxford University Press, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0198707370

Human anatomy is one of an extensive series of ‘Very Short Introductions’ published by Oxford University Press which are aimed at those new to the particular subject. In his preface, Prof Klenerman describes the book as an introduction for those about to embark on anatomy at university, but it could equally be read by anyone with an interest in the structure of the human body. The text is a model of clarity and unburdened by jargon.

It is a short, elegantly produced, volume which consists essentially of six chapters which describe the skeleton, cardiorespiratory and nervous systems before addressing regional anatomy. These are preceded by a chapter on the history of human anatomical study and followed by an anthropological chapter on how the adoption of bipedal gait affected the structure of the body. At the end of each chapter is a section entitled “When things go wrong” which outlines common conditions that affect the system or region described. I was slightly surprised that Henry Gray didn’t merit a mention in the historical section but this is the mildest of reservations.

In each section the anatomy is presented in context with significant emphasis on the relationship between form and function. Perhaps more than in other texts, the overarching structure and organisation of each system is described with a clarity which makes the detail easier to appreciate.

It is astonishing how much information Prof Klenerman has been able to include in this slim pocket- sized volume. He has also managed with only 51 illustrations, which is remarkable given the visual nature of the subject. Anyone with any interest in human anatomy will find it a delight.

Reviewed by Mr Alistair Ross