Nancy Grahame Joy (1920-2013)

Medical artists should be “born teachers, artists by vocation and scientists by nature.”

— Nancy Joy, 1974

Nancy Jean Hannah Grahame Joy, Chair of the University of Toronto’s Department of Art as Applied to Medicine (AAM) (now Biomedical Communications) from 1962 to 1985, passed away on July 27, 2013, in Toronto. As a medical illustrator, she is best known for her contributions to J.C.B. Grant’s Method of Anatomy and Atlas of Anatomy; she worked with Dr. Grant for over thirty years, and was influenced by his views on the importance of illustration as a tool for teaching and research. As a professor, she was an influential leader in shaping medical illustration as an academic discipline. Prof. Joy was one of a few female Chairs of a department at the University of Toronto in the ‘60s. Under her guidance AAM was elevated from a diploma program to a three-year Bachelor of Science in 1967.

Daughter of an artist and a lawyer, and grand-daughter of a surgeon, anatomist, and Dean of the UofT Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Alexander Primrose, Joy combined art and medicine throughout her life. In 1939 she enrolled in a four-year diploma at the Ontario College of Art; she later attended classes in anatomy, histology, embryology, and neuroanatomy with U of T’s medical students, and, from 1944-1946, studied and worked with Tom Jones in the Department of Medical and Dental Illustration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Upon her return to Toronto in 1946, she enrolled as a special student in the AAM program and worked as a freelance illustrator for Dr. Grant.

Prof. Joy was an accomplished pen and ink and half-tone watercolour practitioner, and she was a forward thinker: as early as 1982 she introduced a course in the design of computer-aided learning for medical education within the AAM program. She was also an active advocate for artists’ rights.

Prof. Joy was an Honorary Fellow of the Ontario College of Art (1984) and a member of the Association of Medical Illustrators. The AMI honoured Nancy Joy and another of Grant’s artists, Dorothy Foster Chubb, at their annual meeting in 1998 in Toronto, when the publisher of Grant’s Atlas presented the original artwork used in the book to Biomedical Communications and the Department of Anatomy. Her legacy as an artist, educator, and advocate continues to flourish in the BMC program and through her medical illustrations in Grant’s Atlas, now in its thirteenth edition.

Donations in honour and in memory of Prof. Nancy Grahame Joy can be made to the Biomedical Communications Program Fund. 

Click here to donate online

(Please use BMC address below for online requests for cards; they will be collected by BMC for the family.) To ensure your donation is correctly allocated, please indicate “BMC-Joy” at the end of the online form, under Additional Information.


You can donate by cheque. Make cheques payable to the ‘University of Toronto’. To ensure your donation is correctly allocated, please indicate “BMC-Joy” on your cheque and mail to:

Biomedical Communications
Room 308, Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Road North
Mississauga, Ontario L5L 1C6

Tax receipts will be issued by the University of Toronto and sent to the address you provide.

Prof. Leila Lax, Prof. Margot Mackay, Prof. Shelley Wall & Maeve Doyle
(BMC Fundraising Committee)