UNC Lineberger Board of Visitors member, Francine Netter Roberson, has written the first major biography of her father, the legendary medical illustrator, Frank Netter, MD. Medicine’s Michelangelo, The Life & Art of Frank Netter, MD (October, 2013, Quinnipiac University Press) is based on Frank Netter’s private papers and published works along with the remembrances of his family, friends and colleagues.
Frank Netter was a uniquely talented artist who went to medical school at the urging of his mother. He found that he learned his medical school subjects best by drawing pictures. Soon, classmates, professors and pharmaceutical companies were asking Netter for drawings to help illustrate medical concepts. He became a surgeon but found his true calling as medical illustrator in a career that spanned more than fifty years. His award-winning Atlas of Human Anatomyis now in its sixth edition.
Francine recalls spending many childhood hours with her father in his art studio in their home. “We would talk about things fathers and daughters talk about. And if he was making a picture if the heart, he would tell me how it worked to circulate the blood. Or if he was making a picture of the stomach, he would tell me how it functioned in digestion. But it was really the pictures that told the story.”
After Frank Netter died 1991, Francine donated his large collection of papers to the UNC Health Sciences Library. When she retired from IBM in 2004, Francine decided to capture the story of her father’s remarkable life and career. She began reviewing her father’s autobiographical notes and ultimately conducted over 100 interviews with family members, artists, physicians and scientists. The result is a rich portrait of the man behind the art that taught generations of physicians and health care providers.
Francine has a BA from North Carolina State University, an MA from Hofstra University and an MBA from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler School of Business. She lives in Raleigh with her husband, Ralph Roberson, who also serves on the UNC Lineberger Board of Visitors. Their five children live nearby.