Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community. We post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their 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


William J. Larsen, PhD

An American scientist, Dr. Larsen was a gifted scientist, consistently producing research at the forefront of cell, developmental, and reproductive biology. Early in his career he published a landmark paper that conclusively established mitochondrial fission as the mechanism of mitochondrial biogenesis. He went on to become the first to demonstrate the endocytosis of gap junctions. Moreover, his work on the hormonal regulation of gap junction formation and growth culminated in an authoritative review article in Tissue and Cell, “Structural Diversity of Gap Junctions (1988)”, which became a citation classic.

Throughout his 25 year teaching career, his sixty-seven peer reviewed publications—not to mention numerous invited reviews, abstracts, and book chapters—covered a wide range of research areas including adrenal cortical tumor cells, human ovarian carcinomas, preterm labor, cumulus expansion, oocyte maturation, ovulation, folliculogenesis, and in-vitro fertilization.

In addition to his many contributions to basic research, Dr. Larsen loved to teach and was much appreciated by his students. His exceptional ability was reflected in the four teaching awards he received as a professor at the University of Cincinnati.

Notably, he was the author of Human Embryology, a textbook for medical students that was the first to incorporate modern experimental research into a subject that had traditionally been taught in a strictly descriptive style. On its initial publication in 1998 it was hailed as, “a magnificent book…” by the European Medical Journal. With the release of the fourth edition in 2008, the book was renamed “Larsen’s Human Embryology” in recognition of Dr. Larsen's place as the originator of this revolutionary text. This book is today in it's 6th Edition.

His stellar scientific career would be enough for most people, but Dr. Larsen pursued his numerous and varied interests with such extraordinary passion, energy, and skill that he seemed to have more hours in a day than the ordinary person. He was fascinated with the American Southwest and studied and collected traditional arts and crafts of the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo peoples. He was a woodworker who built three harpsichords and a fortepiano for his wife, and, with his two children, over 100 pieces of gallery-quality furniture. In addition, he loved to regale his friends, colleagues, and students with jokes and stories, and to share his love for gourmet cooking.

The William J. Larsen Distinguished Lecture Series

An annual lecture series was created for the Department of Cancer & Cell Biology at the University of Cincinnati to honor Dr. Larsen's research which was at the forefront of cell developmental and reproductive biology. This series recognizes forward-thinking research scientists in the field of developmental biology and asks that they share their research and findings with students and faculty of the University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine.

Personal note: I had the opportunity to meet and attend Dr. Larsen’s embryology lectures as he and I worked in the Anatomy, Embryology, and Histology program at the University of Cincinnati Medical College. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to have Dr. Larsen sign my personal copy of his book. He is sorely missed, Dr. Miranda


1. "The William J. Larsen Distinguished Lecture Series" University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine.
3. 2022 Larsen Lecture Series brochure (download here)
4. Dr. Larsen's family personal communications

 "Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc., and the contributors of "Medical Terminology Daily" wish to thank all individuals who donate their bodies and tissues for the advancement of education and research”.

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Philippo Verheyen

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.

Philippo Verheyen (1648 – 1710). Flemish physician and anatomist, Philipo (Philip) Verheyen was born in the city of Verrebroek in Belgium, worked as a farmer in his early years and was probably expected to be a farmer for the rest of his life. The local Catholic parish pastor Johannes Jaspars, recognizing his intelligence, started teaching him Latin and letters with the intention of having Philip become a priest.

In 1672, he was sent to the Trinity College in Leuven where he started his studies in arts and later in theology. He continued his studies in Theology at the Collegium Sancti Spiritus (College of the Holy Spirit). During the latter part of his studies Verhayen was already wearing a priest’s collar. In 1675 Verheyen suffered an injury that lead to gangrene and eventual amputation of his left leg. This injury prevented him from taking his final vows as a priest.

Verheyen enrolled at the University of Leuven College Of Medicine where after 3 years he became a physician.  Unhappy with his mostly theoretical medical knowledge Verhayen moved to Leyden to continue his studies with Frederick Ryus and others.

Philippo Verheyen
In 1683 Verheyen returns to Leuven where he presents his doctoral thesis which is accepted. In August 1669 elected Rector Magnificus at the University of Leyden, one of the highest honors ever bestowed on him. This is why Verheyen's statue is among the personalities honored at the town hall in Leuven, Belgium.

Verheyen was a prolific writer including several books and manuscripts. His main work “Corporis Humani  Anatomiae”, a two book work, had twelve editions, some in other languages besides Latin. This book became one of the most used anatomy books until the middle of the 18th century. Interestingly, Verheyen relates his life and studies at the beginning of his book in a chapter call Compendium Vitae (CV). Only the first edition was published while Verheyen was alive.

The following excerpt of his book "Corporis Humani Anatomiae Liber Primus" reads : " ... QuintusAuricularis, quia cum minimum sit, auribus expurgandis est aptissimus" translates as"..the fifth (finger, called) Auricularis, because how small it is, is most suitable to clean the ears". Incredibly, anatomists at that time called the fifth digit "digitus auricularis".

Verheyen is credited with the creation of the eponym the “Achilles tendon” which denominates the common tendon for the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle, although at the time he called it the “Chorda Achillis”. He also described the kidneys in detail, especially the arterial “stars” found on the surface of the kidney, which are today known as the “Stars of Verheyen”.

In 2005 an article appeared on the World Wide Web with a painting showing Verhayen dissecting his own amputated leg. This initially “anonymous” oil pintingis actually a Photoshop-edited image which incorporates parts of the painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” by Rembrandt.  This work was made by ShrestaRit Premnath. This is a conceptual artwork depicting the concept of amputation, but not an actual oil painting, as shown by the image analysis depicted at the bottom of this article.

The story of Verheyen keeping and dissecting his own leg is most probably a myth for several reasons. Verhayen was poor and did not have enough money to go to Leyden to have his leg amputated there as the myth suggests. Preservation techniques were not too good at the time and when Verheyen had his leg amputated he had yet to enter medical school and be introduced to the art of human anatomy. Granted, he had dissected animals before in the farm, but it is doubtful that this myth is true.

verheyen sm
"Verheyen dissecting his own leg". Click on the image to see a larger version. The image will open in a new tab
Verheyen's stars on the surface of a human kidney
Verheyen's stars on the surface of a human kidney. Click on the image for a larger version.
Verheyen's statue at Louven's Town Hall
Verheyen's statue at Louven's Town Hall. Click on the image for a larger version.
Title page of Verheyen's Corporis Humani  Anatomiae
Title page of Verheyen's Corporis Humani  Anatomiae. Click on the image for a larger version.
A comparison of Rembrandt's work and a painting said to depict Verheyen dissecting his own leg
Click on the image for a larger version.

The image above shows a comparison between Rembrandt's  painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” and an "anonymous" oil painting that appeared on the Internet circa 2005.

This oil painting include elements from Rembrandt's work. First, the head of "Verheyen" has been copied and flipped horizontally, This causes "Verheyen's" neck position to be awkward for the job of dissection. Second, the right hand holding the dissector and Achilles' tendon is Dr. Tulp's hand that has been slightly rotated, including the instrument anf the cuff. Third, the left hand is also that of Dr. Tulp, but not the cuff. If you look closely you will notice that both cuffs are different!

I have not been able to find the original painting on which these elements were added. My guess is that the left leg depicted on the table is also added. Interestingly, the table shows perpective problems.

Personal note: I am proud to have in my library catalog a copy of the second edition of Philippo Verheyen's “Corporis Humani  Anatomiae, Liber Primus”, published in 1710 in Brussels by the printer house of Fraters Serstevens. The book is signed by an Ex-Libris by "Hanolet". I have not been able to find more information on this prior owner of this book. An image of the title page is depicted in this article. Dr. Miranda

1. “Philip Verheyen (1648-1710) and his Corporis Humani Anatomiae” Suy R. Acta chir belg, 2007, 107, 343-354
2. “Achilles tendon: the 305th anniversary of the French priority on the introduction of the famous anatomical eponym” Musil, V. et al Surg Radiol Anat (2011) 33:421–427
3. "Philip Verheyen" Research and movie by by Hedwige Daenens
Original image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

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