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A Moment in History

Vieussens1


Raymond de Vieussens
(c.1635 – 1715)

French anatomist and physician. His exact date and place of birth are uncertain, some place him being born in the area of Le Vigan in France and the date for some authors as late as 1641.

What we do know is that he studied at the University of Montpellier where he graduated from his medical studies in 1670. He became a physician at the Hôtel Dieu Saint-Eloi in Montpellier. He later became head physician at the same hospital and apparently maintained this position for the rest of his life. His studies on the anatomy of the heart and lymphatic system were pioneers for the time, as were his studies on the anatomy of the nervous system.

Vieussens was a prolific writer. Among his works in 1706, he published “Nouvelles Découvertes sur le Coeur” (New Discoveries on the Heart) followed by “Traité Nouveau de la Structure et Des causes du Mouvement Naturel du Coeur” (New Treaties on the Structure and Cause of the Natural Movement of the Heart) in 1715. In these books he presented detailed anatomy of the lymphatic system and blood vessels of the heart, as well as his theories on the movement of the heart. In his work, he did the first accurate description of mitral stenosis and aortic disease.

One of his greatest works was “Neurographia Universalis”, published in 1684 in Lyons, France. In this book Vieussens describes the structure of the nervous system with emphasis on the pathways of the white substance, which we know today is formed by bundles of neuronal axons. He accurately described the internal structure of the cerebellum and other structures that today bear his name. Unfortunately Vieussens attempted to describe the physiology of the brain with little factual support, developing wild theories, including the statement that he had found the “fluid of the nerves”.

Some of Vieussens’ work was published posthumously by his family and colleagues. Today, many eponyms remember Vieussens’ name, here are some of them:

Valve of Vieussens: A valve found at the distal end of the great cardiac vein, where it empties into the coronary sinus
Ring of Vieussens: Name for and anatomical variation in the heart, an anastomotic communication between two conal arteries, one arising from the right coronary artery, the other arising from the left anterior descending artery (LAD)
• Centrum of Vieussens: A term that describes the mass of white matter at the center of each cerebral hemisphere
• Ring of Vieussens: Eponymic term for the limbus fossa ovalis, a raised muscular ring surrounding the fossa ovalis in the heart
• Valve of Vieussens: A thin veil of tissue between the superior cerebellar peduncles, forming part of the roof of the 4th ventricle. This is known as the superior medullary vellum and may have some sparse cerebellar tissue on it
• The ventricle of Vieussens: The name of a cavity found in the case where the septum pellucidum is double. The septum pellucidum is a membrane that separates the lateral ventricles of the brain in the midline

If you hover with your mouse over the image of young Vieussens you will see another image of Vieussens at 65. 

Original images courtesy of National Library of Medicine.


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Henry Gray F.R.S


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 Gray F.R.S. (1827 – 1861). English anatomist, Henry Gray was born in 1827. Not much is known of his early studies. What is known is that on May 6, 1845 Gray was studying as a pupil at St. George’s Hospital in London. At 21 years of age Gray won an award for an anatomical paper on human and comparative anatomy of the eye and its appendages.

In 1850 Henry Gray was appointed as house surgeon to the St. George’s Hospital, and in 1852 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He wrote several anatomical papers and in 1852 became a lecturer on Anatomy at the same hospital.

At this time he started work on what would become his legacy to the world. A systematic analysis and treatise on human anatomy that was originally published in 1858, entitled “Anatomy, Descriptive, and Surgical” which was profusely illustrated by Henry Vandyke Carter, M.D.

Unfortunately for the world, Henry Gray was affected by smallpox and died on June 13, 1861 shortly after he was elected as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. Henry Gray died when he was only 34 years old.

Henry Gray, FRS
Original imagecourtesy of NLM  

Much of the original work of Henry Gray is today in the public domain. Still, the book that he published is still in print, much modified, but with the same educational purpose. The 40th British Edition of “Gray’s Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice” was published in November 2008. The American Edition of the same book was published in 1908, long after his death. The 30thAmerican Edition of Gray’s Anatomy was last published in the USA in 1984.

Sources:
1. “Henry Gray and Henry Vandyke Carter: Creators of a Famous Textbook" Roberts, S. J Med Biog 2000 8: 206-212
2. "Henry Gray, Anatomist: An Appreciation" Boland, F Am J Med Sci 1908 1827-1924
3. "The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy" Hayes, B. Random House PG 2007