Alumni Profiles

The Inside Story
Bob Chase '45 hopes to change the way we look at human anatomy

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Robert "Bob" Chase '45 realizes that not everyone shares his appreciation for human dissections. "People don't consider them beautiful, I suppose," he says. "But I do." With his current project, he hopes to spread that enthusiasm.

Chase has had a long and distinguished career in medicine and education. As a surgeon, he became known for his expertise in reconstructive hand surgery, an interest that was inspired by his work treating wounded soldiers during the Korean War. Now the Emile Holman Professor of Surgery, Emeritus, at Stanford School of Medicine, he has been honored by the California Medical Association for his dedication to medical education.

It was at Stanford in the 1960s that Chase got to know David Bassett, a professor of anatomy. Between 1948 and 1962, Bassett and photographer William Gruber published a series of volumes, A Stereoscopic Atlas of Human Anatomy, with detailed images of more than 1,500 dissections as well as explanatory text. Gruber was an expert in stereo photography and the inventor of the View-Master, and the atlas included slide reels that could be viewed in 3-D. "The dissections themselves, viewed flat, are incredibly good," says Chase, "but seen in 3-D, they become spectacular."

By the time the atlas went out of print, both Bassett and Gruber had died. Chase contacted Bassett's widow and urged her to request the return of all the original materials from the publisher. She did just that, and then she sent everything to Chase. The work now constitutes the Bassett Collection at Stanford, and Chase acts as curator. "This collection represents the most detailed and accurate display of human structure ever developed," says Chase. Now he's working with eHuman, a medical technology company, to bring the collection to a much wider audience by publishing the images online. Many are available on Stanford's web site at, and Chase says that most of the others should be ready soon. He spent part of his summer—he and his wife, Ann Parker Chase '46, winter in California and summer in Jaffrey, N.H.—recording the voiceovers that will explain what viewers are seeing in each photograph. Eventually users will be able to use special glasses to see them in 3-D.

Chase thinks it's important that medical schools and the public get as much use as possible out of this collection. "This kind of thing will never be repeated," he says. "I don't think anyone is going to take the time to do the meticulous dissections that David Bassett did and photograph them in stereo."

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