GATESVILLE — In 1949, two doctors, a dentist and a self-made engineer with a ninth-grade education cobbled together a shop for making plastic human skeletons for the medical profession.

Two brothers, Drs. Wendell and Elworth Lowrey, partnered with Dr. Thomas Williams, a dentist, and Jess Blakely to found Medical Plastics Laboratory, now Laerdal Texas, in Gatesville.

Struck by the high cost and long delay of purchasing a human skeleton for medical training, the group launched their improbable endeavor over coffee at a local drug store.

Gatesville writer Michael Barr spins their tale of hits and misses, trials and errors and eventual triumph in his book “The Wizards of OS — The Story of Medical Plastics Laboratory.”

Barr will sign copies of the book from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Coryell Museum in Gatesville.

Copies will be on sale for $8 each, and proceeds will go to the Coryell Museum and Historical Center.

The title — “os” comes from the Latin word for “bone” — is an obvious play on L. Frank Baum’s classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and borrows a quote to describe the founders’ desire to keep their business in their hometown: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.”

Drawing on local talent and skills, the Lowrey brothers, Williams and Blakely combined their energies to create what today is a multimillion-dollar company.

“I knew these doctors all my life,” Barr said, “but until I wrote this book, I never understood how their amazing accomplishments changed the world.”

A Gatesville native, Barr is a retired educator with a passion for local history. “The Wizards of OS” is his fourth book.

 

Contact Tim Orwig at torwig@kdhnews.com

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