CONTRIBUTIONS OF JOHANN JACOB HUBER TO THE SURFACE ANATOMY OF THE SPINAL CORD AND MENINGES

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Abstract

FROM PREHISTORIC TIMES, man has been aware that injury to the spine may result in paralysis of the limbs; this is reflected in bas-relief figures found at Nineweh in ancient Mesopotamia, in a hunting scene that depicts a lioness wounded by King Ashurbanipal. The Edwin Smith papyrus gives many case illustrations of spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis, yet early physicians were unaware of the anatomy of the spinal cord. Galen performed prospective studies in animals by sectioning the spinal cord at varying levels and observing the commensurate paralysis and sensory loss. Real advances in the understanding of spinal cord anatomy did not occur until human cadaveric dissections were undertaken; even then, the knowledge of the anatomy of the spinal cord lagged behind that of other body structures. Johann Jacob Huber appears to be the first anatomist to focus on the spinal cord almost exclusively. His descriptions, and especially his illustrations that depict spinal cord surface anatomy, are impressive with regard to their accuracy and their sense of photorealism. Indeed, his illustrations seem to compare well with the anatomic drawings in contemporary anatomic texts. Yet, we were unable to find a single article in the entire English-language literature depicting his illustrations. We conclude that the description and anatomic illustrations by Johann Jacob Huber remain a hidden gem in the history of human spinal anatomy.

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