Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We will post a workweek daily medical or surgical term, its meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History

Johann Gottfried Zinn

Johann Gottfried Zinn

Anatomist and botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn was born on December 6, 1727 in the city of Ansbach, Germany. He started his medical studies in his native city, becoming later a student of Dr.  Albrecht von Hallers at the University of Göttingen, and received his MD in 1749.

He left for Berlin to continue his studies but came back shortly thereafter. He became a professor of anatomy at the University of Göttingen and in 1753 he also became the director of the botanical garden in the same city.

He is known for his anatomical treatise on the anatomy of the human eye: “Descriptio anatomica oculi humani iconibus illustrata”. Because of this, his name has become an eponym in the “Zonule of Zinn”, a ring of strands that forms a fibrous band connecting the ciliary body with the capsule of the lens of the eye. Zonule of Zinn is sometimes referred to as the suspensory ligaments of the lens, or the “ligament of Zinn”. His name is also attached to the anular ring tendon found in the posterior aspect of the eye, the "anular tendon of Zinn". This ring serves as attachment for all the extraocular muscles of the eye and the optic nerve passes through the center of the ring.

Carol Linné (Carolus Linneaus) named a genus of flowers in the family Asteraceae known vernacularly today as “Zinnia” in his honor. Hover your cursor over his portrait to see the flower.

The chapter on orbital anatomy of his anatomy book, taken from the second edition in 1780, has been translated and the first of three parts is published in an issue of “Strabismus”

His book "Catalogus Plantarum Horti Academici Et Agri" can be seen online here.

His life was short, dying at the early age of 32, but his name lives on in the name of a beautiful flower.

1. “Johann Gottfried Zinn" Simonz, HJ Strabismus – 2004, Vol. 12, No. 2, p. 125 
2. "Anatomical Description of the Human Eye" Zinn, JG Strabismus, 13:45–52, 2005 
Images: Public Domain by Wikipedia Commons. 1. Own work I_am Jin, and H. Wilhem Dietz

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Anatomy / Dissection

UPDATED: From the Greek, the prefix [ana-] meaning "trough" or "up", the root term [-tom-], arising from [τομή] (tom??) meaning "to cut", and the suffix [-y], meaning "process". The word [anatomy] means then, "a process of cutting up", a very good description of what anatomists do. What is interesting is that the word anatomy describes an action, and as such can be used as a verb. It is correct to say "to anatomize" when referring to the act of dissecting a body or body part.

The word "anatomy" has the same meaning as "dissection", a word with Latin roots. The prefix [dis-] means "apart", while the root term [-section] means "to cut". [-section] arises from the Latin [sectis] or [secare]. both meaning "to cut". 

Today the term [anatomy] is used to describe one of the basic medical sciences; in the Middle Ages the terms to "dissect" or to "anatomize" were interchangeable.

Anatomy is "the study of the human body, its parts and components, and the spatial relationship between this components". For many, anatomy is at the basis of the Science of Surgery

There are many subspecialties in anatomy, including:

Gross anatomy: That anatomy that can be seen with the naked eye
Surface anatomy: The correlation between superficial landmarks and internal structures and organs
Clinical anatomy: The study of anatomy and its relation to physiology, pathology, and surgical treatment

Personal note: The improper pronunciation of the term [dissection] is one of my pet peeves!