Skeletal Pioneers

For centuries stories of famous explorers have been immensely popular. Names such as Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama have been familiar to generations of readers. Below are some of the pioneers who explored the frontiers of the skeletal system.

Coiter, Volcher: Volcher Coiter, a physician who established the study of comparative osteology, first described cerebrospinal meningitis. Coiter's research included human embryology as well as the comparative osteology of animals.

Julius Wolff: Wolff was a professor of orthopedic surgery in Berlin who established Wolff's law. The Wolff's Law states "All changes in the function of bones are attended by definite alterations in their internal structures".

Celus: Celus was a Roman writer who contributed considerably to our knowledge of the skeleton. He gave an account of the limbs and surgical treatment.

Julius Pollux: Pollux was a Roman contemporary whose book Onomasticon introduced many anatomical words such as 'trochanter' meaning bony knob, like the one at the top of the thigh to which muscles are attached.

Galen: Galen was a famous philosopher who wrote hundreds of books, among which one was Bones for Beginners. Galen classified bones into those having a hollow marrow cavity and those, like the bones of the skull, which do not. He recognized that there are 24 vertebrae in the spine He gave the name 'coccyx' to the rudimentary human tail. Galen also described the sacrum, the block of fused vertebrae at the base of the spine that forms the back part of the pelvic girdle.

Sir James Paget

Sir James Paget: Paget was a professor of anatomy who discovered Paget's disease of bone, also called Osteitis Deformans. The disease leads to deformity, fracture, and imbalance in calcium metabolism. It is a common chronic disease of middle age. He was the first to recommend surgical removal of bone marrow tumors (myeloid sarcoma) instead of amputation of the limb.

Work of Leonardo da Vinci

Leornardo da Vinci: Leonardo was an artist and scientist. He drew the first adequate picture of bones which were anatomically correct.

Andreas Vesalius: Vesalius is the founder of modern observational anatomy. He produced the first comprehensive account and illustrations of the human skeleton. He wrote De Fabrica and Epitome of which the first seven volumes were devoted to bones and joints. Vesalius agreed with Galen on many things, but he also differed from his ideas at certain points. He denied that humans have a separate bone in the front part of the upper jaw, the pre-maxillary bone. The bone of the skull, the sphenoid, was first described by Vesalius. He also discovered the Vesalianum or 'bone of Vesalius', which is a small, spherical bone that exists between the base of the little toe and the cuboid bone in the instep. It only exists when the base of the inner bone of the little toe has separated.

E. Donnall Thomas: He is an American physician who pioneered techniques for transplanting bone marrow to treat patients with diseases such as leukemia.

Claus Worm: Worm was a physiologist who was the first to describe the Wormian bones. These bones located in the back of the skull are the result of a developmental accident. If the cranial membrane in the fetus begins to ossify away from the main centers of bone growth, they persist into adulthood as small islands, adjacent or incorporated in the lines that join the hard plates of the skull. The Wormian bones are usually symmetrical.

Johann Blumenbach: Blumenbach discovered the Blumenbach's clivus, which is the sloping shelf of bone that leads up the inside floor of the cranium from the foramen magnum (the hole through which the spinal cord exits from the skull) to the sella turcia (the pea-shaped cavity in the floor of the skull which holds the pituitary gland).

Giovanni Filipo Ingrassias



Giovanni Filipo Ingrassias: Ingrassias was an osteologist who described the small part of the sphenoid bone which forms the inner wall of the eye socket (apophysis of Ingrassias).




Charles Marie Chassaignac: Chassaignar was a Parisian surgeon who discovered the Chassaignac's tubercles that are knobs that exist on both sides of the sixth cervical vertebra. These knobs are vital in emergency surgery because the main carotid arteries can be squeezed back against them to stanch serious bleeding in the neck or face. Sudden pressure on the carotid artery, which carried blood to the brain, triggers a nervous reflex causing the heart to stop. This is the fatal mechanism seen in death from the karate or commando punch.

Pierre Charles Alexander Louis: Louis was a Parisian chest physician who discovered the 'Angle of Louis' which is the name given to the slight bend towards the top of the breastbone. He made detailed observations of chest tuberculosis.

George Richard Minot (1885-1950): Minot was a hematologist and physician. He discovered that the number of reticulocytes (young red blood cells) found in a sample provide a good index of activity of the bone marrow. This helped to diagnose anemia.

Clopton Havers: Havers is a prominent figure of osteology. He discovered Haversian canals and Haversian systems. Haversian systems consist of numerous cylinders of bone, each a fraction of an inch in diameter. They are laid around a central channel, which is the actual Haversian canal. The Haversian canal carries blood and lymph vessels and nerves to supply the surrounding bone.

Epstein Achong and Barr: Epstein and Barr were two scientists who discovered Epstein Barr virus causes aplastic anemia which is the failure of bone marrow to produce red blood cells. It was discovered in 1964.

G. Ghedini: Ghedini was an Italian physician who introduced the biopsy of bone marrow as a clinical procedure. He obtained the marrow by puncturing the shaft of the tibia.

Mondino de Luzzi (1275-1326): Luzzi was an Italian anatomist who was the son of a Bolognese apothecary. He was known as the 'Restorer of Anatomy'. In his work Anatomica (Anatomy) which was completed in 1316, he states "Now the bones of the chest are many and are not continuous, in order that it may be expanded and contracted, since it has ever to be in motion".

Anders Adolf Retzius (1796-1860): Retzius was a Swedish anatomist. Retzius was born in Lund, Sweden, where his father was a professor of natural history. As a comparative anatomist, Retzuis did important work on the primitive chordate and the link between invertebrates and vertebrates. In 1842, he introduced the idea of the cephalic index, the ratio between a skull's length and width. He classified skulls as brachycephalic or dolichocephalic (long or short).

Alexander Monro (1697-1767): Monro was a Scottish anatomist. He was born in London, educated at the University of Edinburgh and then entered into an apprenticeship with his father. He pursued his medical studies first in London and then in Leiden. In 1719 he was appointed to the first chair of anatomy. He published only one work Anatomy of Human Bones in 1726.

Bernard Siegfried Albinus (1697-1770): Albinus was a German anatomist who was born in Frankfurt, Germany and was educated at the University of Leiden, where he subsequently held professorships in anatomy, surgery and later medicine. He published, with his former teacher Hermann Boerhauve, the complete works of Andreas Vesalius, and edited a new edition of the works of Hieronymus Fabricius. His own work in which he emphasized the importance of illustrations was published in 1747 in Tabulae Sceleti et Musculorum Corporis Humani (Plates of the Skeleton and Muscles of the Human Body).

Luigi Galvani (1737-1798): Galvani was an Italian anatomist who studied medicine at the university in his native city of Bologna, gaining his MD in 1762 for his thesis on the structure and development of bones.

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