Anatomy Teacher
Morris Amoils was fast. He was the fastest runner in his primary school and his schoolmates nicknamed him ‘Toby’ to link him with ‘Toby’ Betts, the schoolboy sprinter, who in 1924, represented South Africa in the Summer Olympic Games. To his family he was known as Meish. Later he changed his original family name from ‘Morris Amoils’ to ‘Maurice Arnold’.

He was born in Grahamstown in 1907, the son of Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants. The family moved to Johannesburg, where he attended Jeppe Boys’ High School. None of his siblings finished high school. Instead, they went to work to support little Morris, who was very bright, to attend medical school.

The University of the Witwatersrand Medical School had only opened in 1919. Morris was one of eighteen students in the seventh year of the school. Ironically, he had to repeat Anatomy (or maybe that was a contributing factor to his later career). He graduated MB BCh in 1931.

After a few years in medical practice, he went to Great Britain where, in 1938, he obtained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. Returning to South Africa he signed up, and served for five years of World War II as a surgeon in the Union Defence Force in field hospitals in North Africa, Palestine and Italy.

After the War, he approached the Professor of Anatomy, Raymond Dart for a position in the Anatomy Department at Wits Medical School. Jobs were scarce, so, for the first year he taught anatomy without pay. The next year he was rewarded with a salaried position as Senior Lecturer in Gross Anatomy, and Lecturer in Clinical, Applied and Surgical Anatomy.

Avroy Fanaroff remembers Toby Arnold as a superb anatomy teacher. He spent a lot of time at the chalk-board reconstructing anatomical sites which he would build up in layers. He would use coloured chalk and draw with both hands. Ronnie Auerbach remembers that he would illustrate comparative anatomy by drawing a human spine with one hand and a baboon spine with the other – simultaneously!  Ronnie says the students had to work in pairs if they wanted to take notes – one to take the notes and the other to draw the pictures.Toby clearly very much enjoyed teaching and was always polite and friendly.

Avroy and Ronnie remember the collection of anthropological, life and death face masks lining the anatomy halls. They were made by Professor Raymond Dart and his students on field trips around Africa, showing the different features of the varied peoples of Africa. Faces of former Wits students who had engaged in facial casting workshops are also included. Avroy says that amongst these, Toby Arnold’s own face mask was very prominent. (See the end of this tribute, for more information about Dart and his amazing collection.

Toby Arnold’s book Man’s Anatomy: A Study of Human Dissection was used by generations of medical students. Always wearing white gloves, Arnold would start with a meticulous drawing on the chalk-board of the bony underlay of a region. He would add to this the ligaments and tendons, then the muscles, nerves, blood vessels and viscera.  This teaching method was the basis of his second book, published in 1968, Reconstructive Anatomy. For nearly half a century, Toby Arnold taught anatomy, first at Wits Medical School and then in Australia.

To Australia
In 1961 the family, including his son our classmate Peter Arnold emigrated to Australia. See Peters story here Arnold, Peter (BSc). From 1961-63 he was Reader in Anatomy at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. From 1966 until his death in 1994 he served in the anatomy departments of the universities of Sydney and New South Wales. 

Arnold held visiting professorships in anatomy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1952) Wayne State University, Detroit (1960) and St. Louis University (1964-65).

‘Thousands of students and colleagues,’ wrote Phillip Tobias, ‘benefitted from his single-minded enthusiasm, encyclopaedic knowledge, integrity and accessibility.’ Despite failing health, Toby Arnold continued to foster the study of anatomy. Heart and circulatory conditions led to the amputation of both his legs but ‘he remained uncowed and from his wheelchair, he indomitably continued daily trips to the anatomy department, cataloguing and upgrading the museum collections, teaching, counselling and writing. His remarkable memory for detail remained functional until he died aged 87 years.’

With his ‘Arnold’s Anatomy’ feature in the monthly newsletter of the Anatomical Society of Australia and New Zealand (ASANZ), Toby encapsulated his approach to the understanding of anatomy. He served for many years as a Member of the Board of Examiners for the Diploma of Anatomy of ASANZ.

The University of New South Wales awarded him the degree of Doctor of Medicine honoris causa and, in 1989, the title of Professor Emeritus. The citation for his honorary doctorate described him as ‘one of the world’s leading anatomists whose knowledge of the subject is extensive and probably unrivalled.’ He was known as ‘Mr. Anatomy of Sydney.’

Professor Phillip Tobias considered Toby Arnold ‘a man of singular modesty, great personal integrity, humility and gentle humour appreciated and loved by thousands of former students, colleagues and friends.’  Both of Toby’s sons are doctors, as are two granddaughters. His great-grandson is a medical student.

This account of the life of Maurice Arnold (1907-1994) MB BCh (Wits), FRCS (Edinburgh], MD (New South Wales) was compiled by Chaim M. Rosenberg and is based on reports from his son Peter Arnold, and obituary notices written by Phillip V Tobias [Journal of Anatomy (1995):187, p.253, and the South African Medical Journal Volume 85, No.4, April 1995, p.296, as well as comments by Avroy Faneroff and Ronnie Auerbach

Edited by Geraldine Auerbach MBE, London, September 2020.

Raymond A. Dart Collection of African Life and Death Masks

The Raymond A. Dart Collection is one of the most comprehensive facemask collections in Africa, comprising 1,110 masks (397 life, 487 death, 226 not stated). The life masks date from 1927 to c.1980s, death masks from 1933 to 1963. Most life masks were collected during fieldtrips to various regions across Africa, with faces of former Wits students once engaged in facial casting workshops also included. Death masks were collected from unclaimed individuals who passed away in Provincial hospitals within the Transvaal province (presently known as Gauteng), under the provision of the South African Human Tissue Act (No. 65 of 1983; and by previous Acts, e.g. the Anatomy Act No. 20 of 1959) to supply materials for medical research and teaching. The establishment of a bequeathal programme in 1958 witnessed the introduction of consenting body donors into the death mask collection. In total, males dominate the collection by 75%. Recorded ages are error prone, but suggest that most life masks comprise of those under the age of 35 years, and most death masks over the age of 36 years. A total of 241 masks have associated skeletons, which are held in the skeletal collection. 

The facemasks were initially collected to satisfy typological research enquiries that have since been condemned by modern ethical and scientific values. Today they are instead a viable source for teaching and research within the history of science, specifically biological anthropology, and present some potential within the field of craniofacial identification. They are examples of our vast and beautiful human biodiversity, and we commemorate the lives of those whose faces are represented. 


Further details regarding the history, composition and scientific value of the facemask collection are published in:


Houlton T.M.R. & Billings B.K., Blood, sweat and plaster casts: reviewing the history, composition, and scientific value of the Raymond A. Dart Collection of African Life and Death Masks, HOMO – Journal of Comparative Human Biology 68 (2017) 362-377.