John Lizars was the son of the Edinburgh publisher and engraver, Daniel Lizars, who engraved the plates for Sir Charles Bell's books. John became a pupil of John Bell, before serving as a naval surgeon, seeing active service in the Peninsular War. Returning to Edinburgh in 1815, he lectured on anatomy and physiology, firstly at Bell's and Robert Allen's extramural school, then on his own, to average audiences of 150 students. He also ran a successful private surgical practice, before becoming Professor of Surgery at the College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. Between 1822 and 1826, during his years as an anatomy teacher, Lizars issued a series of five folio volumes containing 101 plates, with an accompanying text in octavo, entitled A system of anatomical plates of the human body. Later editions offered the plates coloured or plain, with the text in folio to be bound together with the plates. The work was published by Lizars's father, while the plates were engraved by his brother William Home Lizars, who used a new method of engraving on copper in relief. The plates were treated with acid to etch away the background, leaving the drawing in relief. The plates were then hand-coloured. Fifteen plates of the brain are printed in sepia. Lizars also wrote books on ovariectomy, club-foot, tobacco, and a successful textbook A system of practical surgery (Edinburgh, 1838).