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Samuel Thomas von Söemmerring (1755-1830)

Islam Aly, R. Shane Tubbs, Mohammadali M. Shoja, Marios Loukas

Abstract


The life of the German anatomist Samuel von Söemmerring is anything but ordinary. From the moment a pen was put into his hands, it was apparent that this man was destined for greatness; a literary genius from the age of 6 years, an artist of his time, constantly struggling to follow his passion of anatomical sciences, and begging for funds from his frugal father to pursue his early career. His doctoral dissertation, De basi encephali et originibus nervorum cranio egredientium libri quinque (Five Chapters on the Base of the Brain and the Origin of the Nerves Exiting the Skull), put forward the universally accepted 12-pair classification of the cranial nerves up to the present day. When Félix Pinkus discovered a new cranial nerve in the dipnoan fish in 1894, and the same nerve was identified in human embryos in 1905 and in adults in 1914, the proper classification of the cranial nerves required moving up each nerve by one number. But because of the widespread acceptance of Söemmerring’s proposed classification among anatomists and clinicians, the new cranial nerve was given the number zero. This paper presents a biography of Söemmerring, and it examines some of his studies and ideas regarding anatomy and neuroscience.

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18550/ijhpm.011515.0512

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