John Gosling, anatomy researcher and teacher, dies at 81

Gosling was the co-author of a popular anatomy textbook and a specialist in the neuroscience of the genitourinary system.

- By Mandy Erickson

John Gosling was the co-author of a popular anatomy textbook and a specialist in the neuroscience of the genitourinary system.
Courtesy of Ian Whitmore

John Gosling, MD, professor emeritus of anatomy, textbook author and authority on neuro-urology, died July 17 in Manchester, England. He was 81.

Gosling’s work focused on nerve cells in the sexual organs and lower urinary tract. He co-authored Human Anatomy: Color Atlas and Text, an award-winning book now it its sixth edition. He also contributed to dozens of other books and co-authored more than 100 papers. 

“John Gosling was instrumental in the creation of Stanford Medicine’s clinical anatomy division,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “He forever changed medicine through his research to understand urinary anatomy and touched countless lives through his excellence as a teacher and clinician.”

According to his longtime friend Ian Whitmore, MD, professor of anatomy at the School of Medicine, Gosling “was typically English in that he would never sell himself. I think he deserved to be a Nobel winner for his research into genitourinary anatomy.”

Born May 19, 1939, Gosling earned a medical degree from Manchester University in 1967. He began teaching anatomy there as a student and later became a professor at the university. His career took him around the world. In England, Southern California, Hong Kong and the Middle East he taught pharmacology and anatomy and oversaw anatomy courses.

He first arrived at the Stanford University School of Medicine as a visiting professor in 1975. He returned as a visiting professor six more times until 1991, when he joined the faculty as a full professor. In 2019, he retired and moved back to England, where he lived close to family members.

He won the Kaiser Award for Excellence in Preclinical Teaching three times: in 1989, 1996 and 2000. 

“He put a great deal of effort into maintaining the quality of the anatomy division,” Whitmore said. “He was really dedicated to its teaching.”

Gosling was also an avid rock climber: During his visiting professor stints in California, he made time to climb its mountains, Whitmore said. In his later years, Gosling limited his sport to climbing gyms.

Gosling is survived by two daughters, Rachael Williams and Jane Garbett, and seven grandchildren, all in the U.K.  

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