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


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

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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Although not a medical root term, the root [-nym-] arises from the Greek [onoma] meaning "name". There are many terms that incorporate this root:

Eponym: Use of a proper name to denote a structure
Eunym: [Eu-] is a prefix that means "good", so it imeans a "good name". Also written as "euonym"
Homonym: Same name
Synomym: "A name with the same sense, or same meaning"
Antomym: From the Greek [ant- and anti] meaning opposite. An opposite name
Anonym: From the Greek [an- and ano-] meaning "without". Without a name (anonymous)
Pseudonym: From the Greek [Pseudo-] meaning "false". A false name
Toponym: From [topos], meaning place. The name of a place or location

Henry Koplik, MD

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.

Henry Koplik, MD (1858 -1927). American pediatrician and researcher, was born in 1858 in the city of New York.  He received his MD from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at the Colombia University in New York. He spent several years studying in Berlin, Vienna, and Prague. Upon his return to the US he worked at the lower Manhattan Good Samaritan dispensary, where he later built a large pediatric outpatient clinic which became a model for the care of infants and children. In fact, under Dr Koplik's direction, this clinic became the world's first "milk depot" providing fresh milk and infant food for underprivileged mothers in the area. Dr. Koplik was one of the founders of the American Pediatric Society, and was one of its presidents.

Mostly remembered by the pathognomonic and eponymic "Koplik's spots", Dr Koplik had many other achievements. Some of them include the prophylaxis of a milk depot, the strict discipline in diagnosis and care of the pediatric patient,  the discovery of the bacillus responsible for whooping cough, the prevention of cross-contamination at a pediatric ward, etc.

Dr. Koplik wrote a number of clinical and research papers on hygiene and public health, as well on a number of medical topics, plus a book on "Diseases of Infancy and Childhood". 

1. "Koplik's Spots for the Record: an Illustrated Historical Note" Brem, J; Clin Ped 1972 11:3 161-163
2. "Pediatric Profiles: Henry Koplik (1858-1927)" Bass, MH J Ped 1957 119-125
3. "The History of the First Milk Depot or Gouttes de Lait With Consultations in America" JAMA 50: 1574, 1914.
4. "Some Pediatric Eponyms: Koplik's Spots," W. R. Bett Brit. J. Child.Dis. 28: 127, 1931 
Original imagecourtesy of National Institutes of Health.

Original imagecourtesy of National Institutes of Health.


This is a medical root term with a Latin origin and means "to cut". There is a corresponding Greek suffix [-otome], or [-otomy] that has a similar meaning. Uses of this term include:

Incision : "To cut in"
Incisive: Something that "cuts in"
Incisor: Refers to a type of tooth that has a "cutting in" action
Excision: The prefix [ex-] means "out" or "outside". To cut out, or to extirpate. See the meaning of the suffix [-ectomy] here
Circumcision: The prefix [circum-] means "around", or "in a circle". To cut around (in a circle)

Aortic arch

The aortic arch is a segment of the aorta that arches from the midline towards posterior and to the left. It presents with three branches. From proximal to distal they are the brachiocephalic trunk, the left common carotid artery, and the left subclavian artery. There are several anatomical variations of the branches of the aortic arch.

There is no clear anatomical landmark to denote the ending of the ascending aorta and the beginning of the aortic arch, as there is no clear anatomical landmark to denote the ending of the aortic arch and the beginning of the descending aorta. Anatomists use as a reference a horizontal plane that passes through the angle of Louis. Since this plane also separates the inferior from the superior mediastinum, the aortic arch is found in the superior mediastium, while the ascending and descending aorta are found in the inferior mediastinum.

Aortic arch and branches

Heart - Anterior view  Click on the image for a larger version.

The aortic arch has anatomical relations with the bifurcation of the trachea, the pulmonary trunk and its bifurcation, and the left brachiocephalic vein. In its inferior surface, the aortic arch in the adult has the embryological remnant of the ductus arteriousus, called the ligamentum arteriosum.

The term "aortic arch" was coined and first used by Lorenz Heister (1683 1785) 

Image property of: CAA.Inc.Artist: Victoria G. Ratcliffe


This is a medical root term that originates from the Greek and means "vessel", as in a "container". The term is commonly misunderstood to mean "artery". The original meanings of the term in early Greek and Roman medicine where multiple. It was Lorenz Heister (1683-1758) who first used the term in its modern meaning. Applications of this root term include:

Angiology: Study of vessels
Angioma: Vessel tumor or mass, usually referred to a malformation of knotted vessels. The plural form is "angiomata"
Angioplasty: Reshaping of a vessel
Angiitis: Inflammation of a vessel. Note the double "i" in the word. This is the correct form of the term. "Angitis" is not correct!
Angiogenesis: Creation or generation of vessels
Neoangiogenesis: The prefix [neo-] means [new], therefore the term means "creation or generation of new vessels"
Cholangiogram: The prefix [chol-] means "bile", while the suffix [-ogram] means "examination of". A [cholangiogram] is the "examination of a bile vessel"
Cineangiogram: The prefix [cine-] means "movement", although we use it to mean "movie", while the suffix [-ogram] means "examination of". A [cineangiogram] is the "examination of a vessel in movement"


This is a medical root term that originates from the Greek "arthron" which means "joint". The term is used in many medical words. Applications of this root term include:

• Arthrotomy: Opening of a joint
Arthritis: Inflammation (or infection) of a joint
Arthrology: Study of a joint
Arthrodesis: Fixation of a joint
Arthropathy: A disease affecting a joint
Arthroplasty: Reshaping of a joint
Arthroscopy: Visualizing inside a joint with a scope

As a side note: What is the plural form for arthritis? Hover your cursor over the word "arthritis" to see the answer