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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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Juan Vucetich

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.
Personal note: When working on the root term [-dactyl-] I came upon the biography of Juan Vucetich, the individual who created the modern method of dactyloscopy. Even though not a physician or anatomist, his life and accomplishments deserve to be presented here. Dr. Miranda.

Juan Vucetich  (1858–1925) Juan Vucetich was born Ivan Vučetić in Croatia. In 1882, at 24 years of age he immigrated to Argentina, where he adopted the Spanish translation of his Croatian name. Because of his literacy (I have found no information on his actual studies), he started to work at the Argentinian Sanitary Works until he transferred to the Police Department Office of Identification and Statistics.

Vucetich was placed in charge of the anthropometric method used at the time to identify criminals based on bodily measurements. After reading an article in a French journal on Francis Galton's experiments with fingerprints as a means of identification, Vucetich began collecting fingerprints, taken from arrested men, while also making Bertillon-style anthropometric measurements. Galton's initial study proposed 40 parameters to classify fingerprints, but no system to collect or identify and individual using only this method.

Juan Vucetich

He soon devised a useable system to group and classify fingerprints, which he called "Ichnophalangometrics" (description of phalangeal measurements). Thankfully, that name was later changed to dactyloscopy

Vucetich demonstrated the utility of fingerprint evidence in an 1892 case, which resulted in the identification and conviction of a suspect for first-degree murder. Shortly after that, he dismissed entirely the Bertillon anthropometric system, arguing that a full ten-finger set of fingerprints was sufficient for identification, and that complicated anthropometric measurements were unnecessary.

In 1900, the Argentine Republic began issuing a kind of internal passport which included fingerprints—a practice that was eventually adopted by many other countries. The 1904 publication of "Dactiloscop?a Comparada", Vucetich's definitive work on fingerprint identification, and his travels to other countries, helped to spread his system throughout the world. Today, the Argentinian Police Academy is named after Juan Vucetich

Sources:1. "Juan Vucetich and the origins of forensic fingerprinting". Visible Proofs. National Library of Medicine
2. Vucetich, Juan. Dactiloscopia comparada: El nuevo sistema argentino. Tip. Jacobo Peuser, 1904