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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

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter
Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter (1811-1859)

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter

(1811-1859)

Thomas Dent Mutter was born on March 9, 1811, in Richmond, VA. His mother died in 1813, and his father died of tuberculosis in 1817. Thomas was orphaned when he was barely 8 years old. His father left him a somewhat meager inheritance and in his early life had to do with less that others with his objectives in life. He was well educated under the tutelage of Robert Carter, his guardian, and in 1824 he started his studies at the Hampden Sidney College of Virginia. He continued with a medical apprenticeship with a Dr. Simms in VA. He was well respected and even at his early age he would do home visits for his medical benefactor with great results. He started medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his MD in 1831. The new young doctor, Thomas Dent Mutter, MD was only 20 years of age.

At the time, Europe was the place to go to if you wanted advanced medical studies. Dr. Mutter had no money, so he applied as a ship surgeon to be able to cross the Atlantic. Once in Europe, he spent time in Paris, where he studied under the tutelage of Dr. Guillaume Dupuytren. He later studied for a short time in England where he met Dr. Robert Liston. Following Dupuytren's teachings, Mutter was fascinated by plastic surgery.

A chance encounter with what was to become his first well-known acquisition of a medical curiosity, Mutter started thinking on how to help those people that were known at that time as “monsters”, patients who the general public did not see, because they did not appear in public. The curiosity in question was a wax reproduction of the face of a French woman who had a “horn” arising from her forehead. This piece is on exhibit at the Mütter Museum.

Back in the United States in 1832, Thomas Dent Mutter changed his last name to give it a more “European” sound and added an “umlaut”, so now he was Thomas D. Mütter, MD. It may also be that he wanted to pay homage to his Scottish-German heritage, who knows? He opened his medical office in Philadelphia and although it took time, eventually he had a thriving practice. One of his specialties was the work on “deformities” so common at the time because of facial scars born out of the use of open fires in houses, and deformities caused by burns and loss of tissue due to chemicals used in local industry. Dr. Mütter is the pioneer of what we call today “Reconstructive Surgery”.

In 1835 he was asked to join the Medical Institute of Philadelphia as an assistant professor of Surgery. He was an instant success. Dr. Mütter was adored by his students because, he would question the students and guide them to discovery instead of just lecturing and leaving. In his Discourse eulogy of Dr. Mütter by Joseph Pancoast he writes:” The power of attracting students near him by his mingled gentleness, energy, and enthusiasm; of fixing their attention by the lucid and methodical arrangements of his Subject, by his clear demonstrations, and sprightly oral elucidations, came so readily to him, and was so early displayed) as to seem almost intuitive.” In 1841 Dr Mütter was appointed Professor of Surgery at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

Dr. Mütter had always had poor health, even in childhood, and his dedication to his passion, long hours, took its toll on his body. In 1956 he set sail for Europe and resigned his teaching duties. He was named Emeritus Professor of Surgery. Unfortunately, the trip did not help, and he returned to the US in early 1958. Fearful of another winter in cold Philadelphia, he moved to Charleston, SC, where he died on March 19, 1859.

Dr. Mütter’s story does not end here. He was an avid collector and throughout his short life he had pulled together an impressive collection of medical oddities, samples, and curiosities. Knowing that his life was at an end, he negotiated with the Philadelphia College of Physicians to have them host his collection in perpetuity as well as the creation of a trust fund that would ensure that the public and medical students would have access to this incredible collection. Through the years this collection has increased and is known today as the Mütter Museum of the Philadelphia College of Physicians. I strongly urge our readers to visit this incredible museum. For more information, click here.

Personal notes: In the late 90’s, I attended a meeting of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists.  During the meeting I met Gretchen Worden, who at the time was the Curator of the Mütter museum. Gretchen was inspirational, fun, and a great conversationalist! I had the opportunity to visit Gretchen at the Mütter museum and had the luck to be treated to a “behind the scenes” tour. What an experience! I was saddened to hear that Gretchen Worden passed on August 2, 2004. Still, in my recent visit to the Mütter Museum, I was glad to see a new section at the museum that remembers Gretchen. Her biography can be read here.

I would like to thank Dr. Leslie Wolf for lending me the book by O’Keefe that lead to me writing this article. Dr. Miranda

Sources:
1. “Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine” O’Keefe, C. 2015 Penguin Random House, LLC
2. “A Discourse Commemorative of the Late Professor T.D. Mütter” Pancoast, J. 1859 J Wilson Publisher
3. “Thomas Dent Mütter: the humble narrative of a surgeon, teacher, and curious collector” Baker, J, et al. The American Surgeon, Atlanta 77:iss5 662-14
4. “Thomas Dent Mutter, MD: early reparative surgeon” Harris, ES; Morgan, RF. Ann Plast Surg 1994 33(3):333-8
5. “5 Things I Learned from Thomas Dent Mütter” O’Keefe C.


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Bernhard Siegfried Albinus


This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

Bernhard Siegfried Albinus (1697-1770). German-Dutch physician, surgeon, and anatomist, Albinus was born in Frankfurt an der Oder, but lived most of his life in Leyden, in Holland, his adopted country. His real name was Bernhard Siegfried Weiss, which means “white” in German, the Latin version of which is “albus”, from where derives his Latinized name “Albinus”.

His father was also a physician, Bernard (or Bernhard) Weiss (1653 – 1721). He also took the last name Albinus, which makes following their history and genealogy a bit difficult.

Albinus moved to Leyden (Leiden) when he was only five years old, excelling at his studies and entering the University of Leyden at 12. He later moved to Paris, France to continue his studies on anatomy and surgery. He received his medical degree in 1719.

He began work at the University of Leyden as a Professor of Anatomy and Surgery, where he continued working until his death in 1770. He is considered one the most well-known anatomists of the 18th century.

Bernhard Siegfried Albinus
Because of his work with his colleague Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738), Albinus came in contact with Jan Wandelaar (1690-1759) an artist and engraver. It was this collaboration and the art of Jan Wandelaar which have made Albinus’ books and illustration famous. Albinus was criticized for the luscious, detailed, and sometimes strange backgrounds of his anatomical images, yet he defended Jan Wandelaar and his artistic expression. Albinus and Jan Wandelaar were dedicated to the faithful reproduction of anatomy in their publications, developing a grid system to reduce errors in production and printing.

During his tenure, Albinus was twice appointed Rector of the University and President of the College of Surgeons of Leyden. During this time, he became aware of the discovery of the copper plates created by Eustachius’ and lost for over a hundred years. In 1744 he published the plates in the book “Explanation of the Anatomical Tables of Eustachius “with his comments, stressing the fact that these images were better than those of Vesalius, published in 1543. This is no surprise, as Vesalius’ images were woodcuts, done before the technique of printing with copper plates became popular.

Although not well-known, Albinus’ name is eponymically attached to the risorius and scalenus minimus muscles. His famous publications include  “Historia muscolorum hominis”  in 1734),  “Icones ossium foetus humani” in   1737, “Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani” in 1749, etc.

Some of Albinus and Jan Wandelaar can be seen in the following links that will open is separate pages:

IMAGE 1; IMAGE 2; IMAGE 3; IMAGE 4

Sources:
1. "Bernard Siegfried Albinus (1697-1770), German-Dutch anatomist" JAMA (1966), 196 (10): 910
2.“Bartholomeo Eustachio – The Third Man: Eustachius Published By Albinus” Fahrer, M. Ann Anat 187 (2005) 555—573
3. “Attic perfection in anatomy: Bernhard Siegfried Albinus (1697–1770) and Samuel Thomas Soemmerring (1755–1830)” Hildebrand, R. Ann Anat 187 (2005) 555—573
4. “Two Conceptions of the Human Form: Bernard Siegfried Albinus and Andreas Vesalius” Elkins, J. Artibus et Historiae, 7:14 (1986)  91-106
5. “Bartolomeo Eustachio: His Influence on Albinus and the Anatomical Models at La Specola, Florence” Hilloowala, R. J Hist Med All Sci (1986); 41 (4): 442 -462
Original image courtesy of Images from the History of Medicine