History of anatomy in the 19th century

From Academic Kids

The perfection which anatomical science attained in the last ten years of the 18th and during the 19th century is evinced not only in the improved character of the systems published by anatomists, but in the enormous advance which has taken place in the knowledge of the minute structure of the animal tissues, of the development of the tissues and organs, and of the modifications in form and structure exhibited by various groups of animals.


The first who gave a good modern system was R. B. Sabatier; but his work was speedily eclipsed by the superior merits of the treatises of Sommerring, Bichat and Portal. The excellent work by Samuel Thomas Sommerring, originally published in the German language, between the years 1791 and 1796; then in the Latin language, between the years 1794 and 1800; and in a second edition in the German language in 1800 and 1801, maintaining the high character which it first possessed for clear arrangement, accurate description and general precision, was, between the years 1841 and 1844 republished in eight volumes at Leipzig by Th. L. W. Bischoff, F. G. J. Henle, E. H. Huschke, Theile, G. G. Valentin, Vogel, and R. Wagner, with suitable additions, and a large amount of new and accurate information. In this edition Rudolph Wagner gives, in the first division of the first volume, the life, correspondence and literary writings of Sommerring; and in the second volume the anatomy of the bones and ligaments. The third volume contains the anatomy of the muscles and the vascular system by Theile. G. G. Valentin devotes one volume, the fourth, to the minute anatomy of the nervous system and its parts, as disclosed by careful examination by the microscope; and it must be allowed that the author has been at great pains to present just views of the true anatomy of the brain, the spinal cord, the nervous branches and the ganglia. In the fifth volume, E. H. Huschke of Jena gives the anatomical history of the viscera and the organs of the senses, a department which had been left in some degree incomplete in the original, but for one division of which the author had left useful materials in his large figures already mentioned. In the sixth volume, an entire and complete system of general anatomy, deduced from personal observation and that of other careful observers, the materials being in general new, and in all instances confirmed and rectified, is given by F. G. J. Henle. The seventh volume contains the history of the process of development in mammalia and man, by Th. L. W. Bischoff. The eighth volume treats of the pathological anatomy of the human body, by Julius Vogel, but contains only the first division, relating to the generalities of the subject. This, which is probably the most accurate as it is the most elaborate system of anatomical knowledge up to the date of its publication in 1844, was translated into the French language by Jourdan, and published in 1846 under the name of Encyclopedie anatomique. The eighth volume was translated into English in the year 1847.


The Anatomie generale of M. F. X. Bichat is a monument of his philosophical genius which will last as long as the structure and functions of the human body are objects of interest. His Anatomie descriptive is distinguished by clear and natural arrangement, precise and accurate description, and the general ingenuity with which the subject is treated. The physiological observations are in general correct, often novel, and always highly interesting. It is unfortunate, however, that the ingenious author was cut off prematurely during the preparation of the third volume. The later volumes are, however, pervaded with the general spirit by which the others are impressed, and are highly creditable to the learning, the judgment and the diligence of P. J. Roux and M. F. R. Buisson.

See also: History of anatomy


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