The Department of Anatomy had its beginnings in Toland Medical College, which was founded in 1864, and became the Medical Department of the University of California in 1873. Insofar as can be determined from the records available in its history of over one hundred years, there have been the following chairmen:
- 1864 - 1866 Dr. J. Newton Brown
- 1866 - 1870 Dr. Levi Cooper Lane
- 1870 – 1874 Dr. Vansant
- 1874 – 1878 Dr. Alexander A. O’Neil (also Dean)
- 1878 – 1879 Dr. Robert A. McLean (later Dean)
- 1879 – 1884 During this period Dr. William Lewitt was Lecturer in Anatomy, assisted by his son, Dr. William B. Lewitt
- 1884 – 1891 Dr. William B. Lewitt
- 1891 – 1901 Dr. John M. Williamson
- 1901 – 1907 Dr. Joseph Marshall Flint
- 1915 – 1934 Dr. Herbert M. Evans
- 1934 – 1937 Dr. Ian Maclaren Thompson
- 1938 – 1956 Dr. J.B. deC. M. Saunders (also Medical Librarian and later Dean, Provost, and Chancellor)
- 1956 – 1963 Dr. William O. Reinhardt (later Dean)
- 1963 – 1970 Dr. Ian W. Monie
- 1967 – 1968 Dr. C. Willet Asling
- 1970 – 1973 Dr. Jacob de Groot
- 1973 – 1997 Dr. Henry J. Ralston III
- 1997 - Dr. Allan Basbaum
At the turn of the century, Dr. J. Marshall Flint, with the assistance of Drs. R. O. Moody and Irving Hardesty, undertook extensive reorganization of the teaching program and established courses in histology, microscopic organology, neurology, regional anatomy, and organogenesis. As well as special courses for physicians and advanced students; opportunities were also provided for capable students to undertake research.
The earthquake of 1906 damaged the Medical School buildings to such an extent that the Basic Science departments were transferred temporarily to the Berkeley campus; in the case of the Department of Anatomy, this period of exile lasted 52 years.
Today the department performs research and teaching from the Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses.