In 1965, while I was a student of Human Anatomy at Kurnool Medical College, I had the opportunity to know about Dr. J. C. B. Grant (1886-1973), the author of Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy. The 5th Edition of his Atlas was published in 1962 and was available in India in our Medical College Library.
Born in Loanhead (south of Edinburgh) in 1886, Grant studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School and graduated with an M.B., Ch.B. degree in 1908. While at Edinburgh, he worked under the renowned anatomist Daniel John Cunningham. Grant became a decorated serviceman of the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War before moving to Canada. He established himself as an ‘anatomist extraordinary’ at the University of Toronto, publishing three textbooks that form the basis of Grant’s Anatomy. The textbooks are still used in anatomy classes today, and made unforgettable memories for those who found themselves in his classes nearly a century ago. One of Grant’s many accomplishments was establishing a division of histology within the department.
As a medical student, I used Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy, the seminal work of Scottish-born Dr. John Charles Boileau Grant, who would become the chair of Anatomy at the University of Toronto in 1930 and retired in 1965.
Students continue to use Grant’s textbooks today, and for the more artistic anatomist there’s even a Grant’s Anatomy Coloring Book, published in 2018.
At the University of Toronto, Dr.McMurrich, Chair of Anatomy was succeeded as chairman in 1930 by Dr. John Charles Boileau Grant. Dr. Grant wrote three text books, of which “An Atlas of Anatomy” (published in 1943) rapidly gained international prominence and is still, one of the most widely used anatomical atlases in the world. It is now known as “Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy” and is in its tenth edition. The atlas was based on a series of elegant dissections done either by Grant or by others under his supervision. Many of these dissections are currently housed in Grant’s Museum at the University of Toronto.
The Rudi-Grant Connection is about knowing the man, the building blocks and the structural units and organization of the human body. To defend the human existence, the Rudi-Grant Connection lays the emphasis on knowing the person who is at risk apart from knowing the agent posing the risk.
THE IDENTITY OF MULTICELLULAR HUMAN ORGANISM:
Daniel John Cunningham was born on 15 April 1850 in Scotland. After his initial schooling at his home town, Crieff, he took up the study of medicine at the University of Edinburgh and passed with honours. He is best known for the excellent series of dissection manuals, namely Cunningham’s Dissection Manuals. Cunningham’s Manual of Practical Anatomy has provided me the learning tools to know and understand Man’s External and Internal Reality and its Identity as described by Cells, Tissues, Organs,and Organ Systems.
I learned the truths about the living human body and about Life while dissecting the dead human bodies in a systematic manner. The Manual of Practical Anatomy which guides us through this entire process was published in England. The author Dr. Daniel John Cunningham prepared the Manual while dissecting cadavers of British or Irish citizens. He had never encountered cadavers of Indian citizens. At Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India, where I was a student, the Department of Anatomy obtains dead bodies from Government General Hospital Kurnool and most of the deceased are the poor, illiterate, and uneducated people of that region. None of the deceased had the chance to know this man called Cunningham and Cunningham had no knowledge about the existence of these people who arrive on our dissection tables. But, as the dissection of the human body proceeds, inch, by inch, we recognize the anatomical parts as described by Cunningham. The manual also lists some anatomical variations and we very often exchange information between various dissection tables and recognize the variations mentioned. The dissections also involve slicing the organs and studying them, both macroscopically, and microscopically. We did not miss any part of the human body.
So what is the Identity of this Human person or Human subject who experiences his life using the Sensory Experience such as taste? How does the living Human organism maintain its Identity and Individuality? Apart from the Cultural Traditions of India, several Schools of Religious Thought claim that the Human Individuality and true or real Identity is represented by Human Soul. Where does this soul exist in the human body? What is the location if the soul is present in the living person? Does man have a soul? How does the human organism acquires Knowledge about its own structures and the functions they perform? To know the burdens of Life, I ask my readers to know the reality of man and the nature of his existence.
Human Identity vs Human Individuality:
Human Identity may involve a variety of factors such as facial appearance, age, gender, race, ethnicity, language, religion, culture, nationality, sexual orientation, social and occupational status. Whereas human individuality has to be evaluated by using the markers that the human body uses to recognize its own Self and defends its own existence from threats posed by Non-Self.
Human Individuality and the Genome
Dr. Michael Elowitz, Physicist at California Institute of Technology has conducted experiments on colonies of genetically identical (Clones) E. coli bacteria under identical experimental conditions and has discovered that the clones behave in different ways which could be viewed as an expression of ‘individuality’.
E. coli bacteria in billions populate our intestines. Typical E. coli bacillus has about 4,000 genes. Human cells have about 20,000 genes. The bacteria have fingerprints of their own and even when they share the exact same genome, they could still be identified as ‘individuals’.
The key to understanding E. coli’s fingerprints is to recognize that the bacteria are not simple machines. Unlike wires and transistors, E. coli’s molecules are floppy, twitchy and unpredictable. In an electronic device, like a computer or a radio, electrons stream in a steady flow through the machine’s circuits, but the molecules in E. coli jostle and wander. When E. coli begins using a gene to make a protein, it does not produce a smoothly increasing supply. It spurts out the proteins in fits and starts. One clone may produce half a dozen copies of a protein in an hour, while a clone right next to it produces none.
Michael Elowitz, a physicist at Caltech, put these bursts on display in an elegant experiment. He and his colleagues incited E. coli to produce its proteins for feeding on lactose. Dr. Elowitz and his colleagues added extra genes to the bacteria so that when they made lactose-digesting proteins, they also released light.
The bacteria, Dr. Elowitz found, did not produce a uniform glow. They flickered, sometimes brightly, sometimes dimly. And when Dr. Elowitz took a snapshot of the colony, it was not a uniform sea of light. Some microbes were dark at that moment while others shone at full strength.
At the very least, E. coli’s individuality should be a warning to those who would put human nature down to any sort of simple genetic determinism. Living things are more than just programs run by genetic software. Even in minuscule microbes, the same genes and the same genetic network can lead to different fates.
The bacteria have fingerprints of their own and even when they share the same genome, they could still be identified as individuals.
Humans differ from one another in too many different ways and it is hard to count. The current human population of over six billion could be identified as the same number of individuals. Each human being has an unique genome of his own. There are millions of typographical differences between one genome and another human genome. Even identical twins are not truly identical at all as identical genes in our cells can behave differently.
Living entities are not like simple machines. When we use a gene to make a protein, the gene may not produce a smoothly increasing supply of that protein. The gene tends to work in fits and starts and spurts out the protein. Identical genes can behave differently as the gene makes protein or remains silent depending upon the ‘Methyl’ groups that cap the DNA strands and function as ‘transducers’. These ‘Methyl’ groups sometimes fall off of DNA or become attached to new spots. Hence genetically identical individuals can have different physical identities in the natural world. The protein molecules that make up living entities, turn them into individuals.
THE IRRELEVANCE OF EVOLUTION:
In the natural world, all living entities exist as individuals and express their individuality. The Theory of Evolution proposes that a species can descend or arrive to become a new species by changing its genome in a gradual and incremental manner using a mechanism that is described as ‘ natural selection ‘. The mechanism of natural selection operates via a process of random and unguided mutations in the genetic code that changes the genome and eventually produces the ‘biodiversity’ that we witness in the natural world.
This Theory of Evolution has no relevance to the ultimate identity of each individual member of a given species. This identity is dictated by the interplay between the various components of each individual cell and its interactions with other cells. With the same genomes or different genomes, the living entities can only exist as individuals and they have no other choice. The evolutionary connections are not relevant to this identity. To understand the phenomenon of biodiversity, we will be forced to look at each individual member of each given species.
THE LAW OF INDIVIDUALITY:
I propose that the Law of Individuality governs all the living entities and is manifested in various biological phenomena. The genes and the genetic code function in accordance with the Law of Individuality. I would describe Individuality as a Trade Mark. It is the characteristic of a biological entity. Genes and the genetic codes are the tools that an organism uses to express its Individuality. Each organism assembles its own kind of protein molecules to define its identity and to defend its existence in the natural world.