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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

Johann Gottfried Zinn

Johann Gottfried Zinn
(1727–1759)

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.

Sources:
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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Sympathetic / parasympathetic

The word sympathetic is the adjectival form of sympathy. This word arises from the Greek [συμπάθεια]and is composed of [syn/sym] meaning “together” and [pathos], a word which has been used to mean “disease”. In reality “pathos” has to do more with the “feeling of self”. Based on this, the word sympathy means “together in feeling”, which is what we use today.

How the term got to be used to denote a component of the so-called autonomic nervous system is part of the history of Medicine and Anatomy.

Galen of Pergamon (129AD-200AD), whose teachings on Medicine and Anatomy lasted as indisputable for almost 1,500 years, postulated that nerves were hollow and allowed for “animal spirits” to travel between organs and allowed the coordinated action of one with the other, in “sympathy” with one another. As the knowledge of the components of the nervous system grew, this concept of “sympathy” stayed, becoming a staple of early physiological theories on the action of the nervous system.

Jacobus Benignus Winslow (1669-1760) named three “sympathetic nerves” one of them was the facial nerve (the small sympathetic), the other the vagus nerve, which he called the “middle sympathetic”, and the last was what was known then as the “intercostalis nerve of Willis” or “large sympathetic", today’s sympathetic chain. Other nerves that worked coordinated with this “sympathetics” were considered to work in parallel with it. It is from this concept that the term “parasympathetic” arises.

Galen of Pergamum
Galen of Pergamon 
(129AD - 200AD)

 

Interestingly, the ganglia on the sympathetic chain were for years known as “small brains” and it was postulated that there was a separate multi-brain system coordinating the action of the thoracic and abdominopelvic viscera. The coordination between this “autonomous nervous system” and the rest of the body was made by way of the white and gray rami communicantes.

Today we know that there is only one brain and only one nervous system with an autonomic component which has a “sympathetic” component that is mostly in charge of the “fight or flight” reaction and a “parasympathetic” component that has a “slow down” or “depressor” function. Both work coordinated, so I guess Galen was not "off the mark" after all.

So, we still use the terms “sympathetic” and “parasympathetic”, but the origin of these terms has been blurred by history.

Sources:
1. "Claudius Galenus of Pergamum: Surgeon of Gladiators. Father of Experimental Physiology" Toledo-Pereyra, LH; Journal of Investigative Surgery, 15:299-301, 2002
2. "The Origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA 1970 Hafner Publishing Co.
3. "Medical Meanings:A Glossary of Word Origins" Haubrish, WS American College of Physicians Philadelphia, 1997
4. "The History of the Discovery of the Vegetative (Autonomic) Nervous System" Ackerknecht, EH Medical History, 1974 Vol 18. 
Original image courtesy of Images from the History of Medicine at nih.gov

Note: The links to Google Translate include an icon that will allow you to hear the pronunciation of the word.