A Subway Map of Human Anatomy: All the Systems of Our Body Visualized in the Style of the London Underground

We all have bod­ies, but how many of us tru­ly know our way around them? Plen­ty of books explain in detail the func­tions of and rela­tion­ships between each and every part of our anato­my, but few of them do it in a way the lay­man — and espe­cial­ly the lay­man not yet accus­tomed to the sight of human vis­cera laid bare — can read­i­ly grasp. We need a visu­al­iza­tion of the human body, but what kind of visu­al­iza­tion can best rep­re­sent it with a max­i­mum of clar­i­ty and a min­i­mum of mis­lead­ing dis­tor­tion?

“Most peo­ple might imag­ine an intri­cate net­work of blood ves­sels or the com­plex neur­al cir­cuits of the brain,” writes Visu­al Cap­i­tal­ist’s Iman Ghosh. “Or we might pic­ture dia­grams from the icon­ic med­ical text­book, Gray’s Anato­my.” But how about a visu­al­iza­tion of the body in the style of a clas­sic piece of infor­ma­tion design we’ve all seen at least once, the Lon­don Under­ground map? “Cre­at­ed by Jonathan Sim­monds M.D., a res­i­dent physi­cian at Tufts Med­ical Cen­ter,” Ghosh writes, “it’s a sim­ple yet beau­ti­ful­ly intu­itive demon­stra­tion of how effi­cient­ly our bod­ies work.”

Just as Har­ry Beck­’s orig­i­nal 1933 Lon­don Under­ground map straight­ened out and col­or-cod­ed each of the lines then in oper­a­tion, Sim­monds’ anatom­i­cal map traces thir­teen dif­fer­ent “lines” through the body, each of which rep­re­sents a dif­fer­ent sys­tem of the body: the ner­vous sys­tem in yel­low, for exam­ple, the air­way sys­tem in black, and the lym­phat­ic sys­tem in green. “While dashed lines rep­re­sent deep­er struc­tures, sec­tions with ‘trans­fers’ show where dif­fer­ent organ sys­tems inter­sect,” Ghosh writes. If you’re won­der­ing where to start, she adds, “there’s a help­ful ‘You Are Here’ at the heart.”

You can take a close look at Sim­monds’ work in a large, high-res­o­lu­tion ver­sion here. Not only does fol­low­ing the mod­el of the Lon­don Under­ground map intro­duce a degree of imme­di­ate leg­i­bil­i­ty sel­dom seen (at least by non-med­ical stu­dents) in anatom­i­cal dia­grams, it also under­scores an aspect of the very nature of our human bod­ies that we don’t often con­sid­er. We might instinc­tive­ly think of them as sets of dis­crete organs all encased togeth­er and func­tion­ing inde­pen­dent­ly, but in fact they’re more like cities: just as busy, just as inter­con­nect­ed, just as depen­dent on con­nec­tions and rou­tines, and just as improb­a­bly func­tion­al.

via Visu­al Cap­i­tal­ist

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load the Sub­lime Anato­my Draw­ings of Leonar­do da Vin­ci: Avail­able Online, or in a Great iPad App

Map­ping Emo­tions in the Body: A Finnish Neu­ro­science Study Reveals Where We Feel Emo­tions in Our Bod­ies

The Roman Roads of Britain Visu­al­ized as a Sub­way Map

The Genius of Har­ry Beck’s 1933 Lon­don Tube Map–and How It Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Sub­way Map Design Every­where

A Won­der­ful Archive of His­toric Tran­sit Maps: Expres­sive Art Meets Pre­cise Graph­ic Design

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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  • Gee says:

    I love this clever dia­gram. As a for­mer design­er and now work­ing as a medic, I searched this con­cept on the web to see if any­one was clever enough to have designed a lon­don under­ground map for the heart… found the whole shoot­ing box. Well done.

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