Medical Illustrations of Dorothy Davison

  • Reference
      GB 133 VFA.7
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      398 items
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, Main University Library.

Scope and Content

Whilst this collection contains a significant number of Davison's works it represents only a fraction of the work she would have completed during her career. The range of work she did carry out is evident from published sources but these are the only known original copies to survive.

The majority of works in this collection are of either neurosurgical or orthopaedic subjects representing her close working relationship with both Sir Geoffrey Jefferson and Sir Harry Platt. However she produced images for a great number of largely Manchester-based individuals during her career and there are one or two items in the collection which can be linked to other individuals including Edward Wing Twining, Richard Turner Johnson, G.K. Tutton, and G.A.G. Mitchell.

A number of different techniques are represented in the collection, most notably the Ross board technique for which she was well known. Other examples include watercolour, pencil sketches, and ink drawings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dorothy Davison was born in 1890 but unfortunately little is known about her early life. At about the age of 18 Davison enrolled at the Manchester School of Art but her training here was often interrupted and she eventually left without any formal qualifications in order to care her aged and ailing parents. Around 1917 she was able to take a job at the Manchester Museum where she pursued her interest in prehistory and taught Egyptology to children. Her interest in the prehistoric world continued throughout her career and between 1926 and 1951 published 4 works on the subject.

It was during her time at the Museum that she was introduced to Sir Grafton Elliot Smith (1871-1937), then Professor of Anatomy at the University of Manchester and also a renowned Egyptologist. Smith recognised Davison's artistic skill and invited her to produce some anatomical drawings for him and subsequently encouraged her to pursue work as a medical artist. By 1919 Davison was working alongside Smith's successor Sir John Stopford (1888-1961) and in the 1920s was introduced to Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961) with whom she would develop a strong working relationship following his appointment as Honorary Neurological Surgeon in 1926. She created illustrations for a number of individuals some of the most notable being Professor George Mitchell (1906-1993) and Professor Sir Harry Platt (1886-1986).

The University of Manchester took steps to offer Davison a formal contract as Medical Artist in 1939 but the sudden onset of the second World War meant that this was postponed until 1945. Whilst she may have continued to produce some medical artwork during these years there was little work available owing to the changing priorities of many of the medical staff. Instead she spent most of the war years working for the University's Geography Department both drawing and cataloguing maps.

Throughout her career Davison stressed the importance and value of medical art emphasising the ability of the artist to draw out the obscure and clarify the hard to understand whilst photographs merely copy and demonstrate the obvious. In 1948 she instigated and led efforts to establish the Medical Artists' Association of Great Britain after seeking support from other well-known medical artists including Audrey J. Arnott (1901-1974) and Margaret McLarty (1908-1996). The Association held its first meeting in Oxford on 2 April 1949 and continues to support medical artists today. From the early 1940s onwards Davison was responsible for training a great number of young medical artists in Manchester, some of whose work survives in this collection.

Davison was adept in using a range of techniques but is perhaps most well-known for her use of the Ross board technique. The technique was developed by Max Brödel (1870-1941), an artist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and introduced to artists in the UK after London-based Audrey Arnott visited Brödel in 1932 and shared what she had learned on her return. Subsequently Davison was one of the first in the UK to employ the technique, contending: "it gives texture better than any other medium, fine lines can be scratched out to show the dead white of the chalk-faced paper and gradations of tone can be obtained quickly" (Perry, 1971). These intricate drawings could take many hours to produce with larger drawings taking even longer, such as VFA.7.281 which reportedly took one and a half days.

Davison retired from her role at the University of Manchester in 1957 but continued to play a prominent role within the Medical Artists' Association. She died in 1984.

Access Information

The collection is subject to a number of access restrictions. The illustrations contain patient-specific information, and may therefore be closed to public inspection for up to 100 years in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. In cases where it is possible that the individual is still living, then the relevant illustrations will be closed to public inspection. Such closures are indicated in the catalogue. No patients are identified by name in the catalogue.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

The items in this collection came to the University of Manchester Library in 2016 from the Museum of Medicine and Health, Stopford Building, University of Manchester. Prior to this they had been housed in old x-ray boxes in the Department for Neurosurgery at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the collection can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Related Material

Whilst this collection contains individual pieces of art and finished works UoM Library also holds a collection of Davison's working papers, see DDS. Many of the rough sketches in the working papers relate to the pieces found in this collection and show the working process behind the pieces.

The collection contains a number of drawings relating to the orthopaedic patients of Sir Harry Platt whose research papers are also held by UoM Library, see PLA. This collection also contains a number of lantern slides, of which at least 41 of them are copies of medical drawings believed to have been created by Davison, most of which cannot be found in this collection, see PLA/1/6/8 and PLA/1/6/9.

Many of the neurological drawings in this collection relate to patients treated by neurosurgeon Sir Geoffrey Jefferson whose collection of patient files are also held by UoM Library, see JCN. Where individual drawings can be linked to specific patients this has been made clear in the catalogue description.

The Manchester Medical Collection held at UoM Library contains biographical information about Davison along with photographs and her sketchbook from her time as a student c.1909, see MMC/2/DavisonD.


D. Davison, 'Medical art and the student', Manchester Medical Student Gazette, 1953, 32, pp.33-6.

D. Davison, 'The oldest anatomical theatre', Medical & Biological Illustration 1969, 19(2), pp.72-6.

P.D. Mohr, 'Dorothy Davison (1890-1984): Manchester medical artist and her work for neurosurgeon Sir Geoffrey Jefferson (1886-1961)', Journal of Medical Biography 2017, 25(2), pp.130-7.

K. Ollerenshaw, 'The challenge of medical illustration today', Journal of Audiovisual Media in Medicine, 1988, 11(1), pp.5-7.

J. Perry, 'Forty years of medical art a biography of Dorothy Davison', Medical and Biological Illustration, 1971, 21(1), pp.27-32

GALLERY, Journal of Audiovisual Media in Medicine, 2000, 23(2), pp.73-7.

The following list of publications all contain works by Dorothy Davison. The list is by no means exhaustive but is demonstrative of the range of work she did. Whilst the originals of some of the images in these publications can be found in this collection, the majority do not survive.

D. Aiken & E.R.A. Cooper, 'A new approach to prostatectomy', The British Journal of Surgery, 1967, 54(3), pp.177-186.

D.L. Chadwick, 'Closed injuries of the larynx and pharynx', The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 1960, 74(5), pp.306-24.

E.R.A. Cooper, 'The development of the human auditory pathway from the cochlear ganglion to the medial geniculate body', Acta Anatomica, 1948, 5(1-2), pp.99-122.

H. Davies, R.G. Reid, & G.K. Tutton, 'Discussion on myelography', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1951, 44(10), pp.881-93.

D. Dougal, 'Primary chorioepithelioma of the ovary', The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Empire, 1924, 13(3), pp.387-97.

D. Dougal, 'A granulosa cell tumour of tubular or adenomatous type', BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 1945, 52(4), pp.370-1.

D.L.B. Farley, 'Homonymous hemianopia caused by aneurysm of the internal carotid artery', The Manchester University Medical School Gazette, 1946, 25(2), pp.86-9.

D.L. Griffiths, 'Arterial embolism: A study of eight cases', The Lancet, 1938, 232(6015), pp.1339-44.

D.L. Griffiths, 'Volkmann's ischaemic contracture', British Journal of Surgery, 1940, 28(110), pp.239-60.

D.L. Griffiths, 'The Management of acute circulatory failure in an injured limb', Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 1948, 30B(2), pp.280-9.

A.N. Guthkelch, 'Endothelioma of the stomach causing acute retention of urine', British Journal of Surgery, 1948, 35(140), pp.439-40.

A.N. Guthkelch, 'Extradural haemorrhage as a cause of cortical blindness', Journal of Neurosurgery, 1949, 6(2), pp.180-2.

A.N. Guthkelch, 'Large saccular aneurysm of the intracranial part of the vertebral artery', British Journal of Surgery, 1949, 37(145), pp.107-8.

J. Hardman & G. Jefferson, 'Cerebellopontine angle signs produced by Ependymomata (Cyst, Tumour)', Zentralblatt für Neurochirurgie, 1938, 3, pp.137-45.

W.R. Henderson, 'The anterior basal meningiomas', British Journal of Surgery, 1938, 26(101), pp.124-165.

E.C. Hutchinson & P.O. Yates, 'The cervical portion of the vertebral artery; a clinico-pathological study', Brain, 1956, 79(2), pp.319-31.

E.C. Hutchinson & P.O. Yates, 'Carotico-vertebral stenosis', The Lancet, 1957, 269(6958), pp.2-8.

M.C.G. Israëls, An Atlas of Bone Marrow Pathology (New York, 1948).

E. Jefferson, 'Retrolental fibroplasia', Archives of Disease in Childhood, 1952, 27(134), pp.239-336.

G. Jefferson & R. Whitehead, 'Papilliferous cystoma of the petrous bone associated with hypernephroma and cystic pancreas' British Journal of Surgery, 1931, 19(73), pp.55-62.

G. Jefferson, 'Observations on trigeminam neuralgia', BMJ, 1931, 2(3697), pp.879-83.

G. Jefferson, 'Jacksonian epilepsy: A background and a post-script', Postgraduate Medical Journal, 1935, 11(114), pp.150-62.

G. Jefferson, 'Concerning injuries of the spinal cord', BMJ, 1936, 2(3961), pp.1125-30.

G. Jefferson, 'Removal of right or left frontal lobes in man', BMJ, 1937, 2(3995), pp.199-206.

G. Jefferson, 'Compression of the chiasma, optic nerves, and optic tracts by intracranial aneurysms', Brain, 1937, 60(4), pp.444-97.

G. Jefferson, 'On the saccular aneurysm of the internal carotid artery in the cavernous sinus', British Journal of Surgery, 1938, 26(102), pp.267-302.

G. Jefferson, 'War wounds of the head-II', BMJ, 1939, 2(4102), pp.407-10.

G. Jefferson, 'Extrasellar extensions of pituitary adenomas', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1940, 33, pp.433-58.

G. Jefferson, 'Tumours of the frontal lobe', Postgraduate Medical Journal, 1950, 26(293), pp.133-40.

G. Jefferson & J. Schorstein, 'Injuries of the trigeminal nerve, its ganglion and its divisions', BMJ, 1955, 42(176), pp.561-81.

G. Jefferson, R.A. Bailey, & A. Sutcliffe Kerr, 'Suboccipital arteriovenous aneurysms of the vertebral artery', Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 1956, 38-B(1), pp.114-27.

R.T. Johnson & P.O. Yates, 'Clinico-pathological aspects of pressure changes at the tentorium', Acta Radiologica, 1956, 46(1-2), pp.242-9.

R.T. Johnson, 'Radiotherapy of cerebral angiomas: with a note on some problems in diagnosis' in Pia, Gleave, Grote, & Zierski (eds) Cerebral Angiomas: Advances in Diagnosis and Therapy (New York, 1975) pp.256-66.

H.P. Lawson, 'Treatment of bi-lateral abductor vocal cord paralysis', The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 1955, 69(6), pp.374-89.

P. Lomax, 'Lesions of the hypothalamic region and serum-protein levels', The Lancet, 1957, 269(6975), pp.904-7.

J.B. MacAlpine, Cystoscopy and Urography (Bristol & London, 1936).

E. D'Arcy McCrea, Diseases of the Urethra and Penis (Bristol & London, 1940).

G.A.G. Mitchell, 'The renal nerves', British Journal of Urology, 1950, 22(4), pp.269-80.

G.A.G. Mitchell, 'The nerve supply of the kidneys, Acta Anatomica, 1950, 10(1-2), pp.1-37.

G.A.G. Mitchell, Anatomy of the Autonomic Nervous System (Edinburgh & London, 1953).

G.A.G. Mitchell, 'The innervation of the heart', British Heart Journal, 1953, 15(2), pp.159-71.

G.A.G. Mitchell, 'The autonomic nerve supply of the throat, nose and ear', The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 1954, 68(8), pp.495-516.

G.A.G. Mitchell & E.L. Patterson, Basic Anatomy (Edinburgh & London, 1954).

G.A.G. Mitchell, Cardiovascular Innervation (Edinburgh & London, 1956).

G.A.G. Mitchell, 'The innervation of vessels: a Sir John Struthers Memorial Lecture', Journal of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, 1958, 4(1), pp.1-18.

J. Perry, 'Forty years of medical art a biography of Dorothy Davison', Medical & Biological Illustration, 1971, 21(1), pp.27-32.

H. Platt, 'President's address: some observations on bone tumours', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1931, 25(1), pp.71-112.

H. Platt, 'The Lady Jones Lecture on malignant tumours of the bone', Liverpool Medico-chirurgical Journal, 1935.

H. Platt, 'Sarcoma in abnormal bones', British Journal of Surgery, 1947, 34(135), pp.232-9.

H. Platt, 'Diagnosis and prognosis in sarcomas of bone', Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 1951, 8(2), pp.87-114.

N.J. Roussak & J.D. Heppleston, 'Obstruction of the inferior vena cava by a leiomyosarcoma', The Lancet, 1950, 2(6643), pp.853-5.

G.F. Rowbotham, 'Treatment of pain in the face by intramedullary tractotomy', BMJ, 1938, 2(4064), pp.1073-6.

G.F. Rowbotham, 'Epidermoids arising in the diploe of the bones of the skull', British Journal of Surgery, 1939, 26(103), pp.506-14.

G.F. Rowbotham, 'The hyperostoses in relation with the meningiomas', British Journal of Surgery, 1939, 26(103), pp.593-623.

G.F. Rowbotham, 'Observations on the effects of trigeminal denervation', Brain, 1939, 62(4), pp.364-80.

G.F. Rowbotham, 'Surgical treatment of trigeminal neuralgia', BMJ, 1940, 1(4122), pp.12-4.

G.F. Rowbotham, 'Haemangiomata arising in the bones of the skull', British Journal of Surgery, 1942, 30(117), pp.1-8.

G.F. Rowbotham, Acute Injuries of the Head (Edinburgh, 1942).

S. Cochrane Shanks, P. Kerley, & E.W. Twining (eds), A Text-Book of X-Ray Diagnosis by British Authors (London, 1938).

J.S.B. Stopford, 'Remarks on the causation of the increased intracranial pressure associated with tumours within the cranium', BMJ, 1926, 2(3442), pp.1207-8.

J.S.B. Stopford, 'Increased intracranial pressure', Brain, 1928, 51(4), pp.485-507.

E.D. Telford & J.S.B. Stopford, 'Some experiences of sympathectomy in anterior poliomyelitis', BMJ, 1933, 2(3799), pp.770-3.

E.D. Telford & J.S.B. Stopford, 'The autonomic nerve supply of the distal colon: an anatomical and clinical study', BMJ, 1934, 1(3821), pp.572-4.

E.W. Twining, 'Radiology of the third and fourth ventricles, Part I', British Journal of Radiology, 1939, 12(139), pp.385-417.

R. Warwick & G.A.G. Mitchell, 'The phrenic nucleus of the macaque', Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1956, 105(3), pp.553-85.

A.F. Williams, 'The nerve supply of the laryngeal muscles', The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 1951, 65(5), pp.343-8.

A.F. Williams, 'The role of the first rib in the scalenus anterior syndrome', The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 1952, 34(2), pp.200-3.

A.F. Williams, 'The recurrent laryngeal nerve and the thyroid gland', The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 1954, 68(11), pp.719-25.