Johann Friedrich Meckel

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Johann Friedrich Meckel (the elder)

Johann Friedrich Meckel also the Elder and Johann Friedrich Meckel of Hemsbach (* 31 July 1724 in Wetzlar , † 18th September 1774 in Berlin ) was a German anatomist.



Meckel was the founder of a dynasty of anatomists who held chairs in anatomy for four generations. The family created a comprehensive anatomical work and founded the Meckel collection .

He was the son of the lawyer Philipp Ludwig Meckel (1693–1764), procurator at the Reich Chamber of Commerce in Wetzlar and councilor and secret secretary of the Prince of Nassau-Idstein , and his wife Maria Magdalena Moeller (* 1695). His maternal grandfather was the doctor Georg Christoph Möller, who was Lorenz Heister's academic teacher and professor of medicine in Giessen.

Johann Friedrich Meckel was married to Charlotte Louise Kamman (1724–1797) from 1750, and the marriage resulted in two sons and five daughters, including the anatomist and surgeon Philipp Friedrich Theodor Meckel (1755–1803). From his marriage to Johanna Lauer (1762–1782) came the anatomist Johann Friedrich Meckel the Younger (1781–1833), from his marriage to Katharina Jetzke (1758–1826) the anatomist and forensic doctor Albrecht Meckel (1790–1829). His son was Johann Heinrich Meckel (1821-1856).

academic career

Johann Friedrich Meckel began studying law in Göttingen, but switched to medicine. One of his teachers was Albrecht von Haller , who promoted the training of young Meckel in anatomy and botany. From 1743 to 1745, at the request of his father, Meckel stayed in Berlin with August Buddeus (1696–1753), where he took anatomical courses and became a prosector . He then returned to Göttingen. There he received his doctorate in 1748 with the text Tractatus anatomico-physiologicus de quinto pare nervorum cerebri . In the same year Johann Friedrich Meckel established himself as a general practitioner in Berlin.

After von Haller had refused to become a member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences , Meckel - only 25 years old - took his place in the academy in 1749. The following year, Meckel was appointed to the second chair for anatomy at the Berlin Collegium medico-chirurgicum as successor to Johann Friedrich Cassebohm . The anatomical theater there provided good conditions for anatomical studies thanks to a state-regulated replenishment of human corpses.

After the death of his sponsor and mentor Buddeus in 1752, Meckel became his successor in the first chair of anatomy in the following year, and he continued to hold the chairs of botany and obstetrics. In 1769 he and the professor of surgery Simon Pallas intensified their collaboration, but Pallas died in 1770. He also worked in a medical practice until the end of his life. Sick of tuberculosis, Meckel resigned from his offices at the Collegium medico-chirurgicum in 1773. He was followed by the anatomist Johann Gottlieb Walter .

Johann Friedrich Meckel died in Berlin in 1774 at the age of 50. He was buried in the churchyard at the Dorotheenstädtische Church . His artistically remarkable grave monument made of sandstone, possibly created by the sculptor Wilhelm Christian Meyer , showed a grieving female figure holding the inscription tablet in her hands. When the church was rebuilt in 1861–1863, it was walled in on the southern outer wall of the church. The grave monument was lost when the church and churchyard were leveled in 1965 at the latest.


At the Berlin Anatomical Theater, Meckel continued the reforms of his predecessor Buddeus. On the one hand, he had introduced regular practical anatomy lessons as well as occasional public show lectures. These demonstrations were carried out regularly under Meckel.

A special interest of Meckel was the neuroanatomy. He described the entire course of the trigeminal nerve , the origin of the chorda tympani , the submandibular ganglion and as Cavum Meckeli called Duraduplikatur the trigeminal ganglion . The pterygopalatine ganglion he discovered was later also referred to as the Meckeli ganglion . Further neuroanatomical work by Meckel concerned the facial nerve .

The anatomist made numerous anatomical preparations, including corrosion preparations and wax injection preparations. The preparations were mainly transferred to the later Meckel collection of his son Philipp Friedrich Theodor Meckel and his grandson Johann Friedrich Meckel (the younger), and some of them also to the “Walter Collection” of his successor Johann Gottlieb Walter.

Johann Friedrich Meckel was a member of the Académie des Sciences , the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen , the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences .

Fonts (selection)

  • Johann Friedrich Meckel: De quinto pare nervorum cerebri. Goettingen 1748.
  • Johann Friedrich Meckel: Nova experimenta et observationes de finibus venarum et vasorum lymphat. Berlin 1771.
  • Johann Friedrich Meckel: Opvscvla Anatomica De Vasis Lymphaticis. Dissertatio Epistolaris De Vasis Lymphaticis. Berolini, Stralsund 1772. ( Online )


Individual evidence

  1. Peter Oestmann : A civil process at the Reich Chamber Court . Böhlau, Cologne 2008, ISBN 3-412-20246-0 , p. 33.
  2. ^ Rüdiger Schultka, Luminita Göbbel: Philipp Friedrich Theodor Meckel (1755-1803). Life dates and life's work . In: Rüdiger Schultka, Josef N. Neumann (eds.): Anatomy and anatomical collections in the 18th century: on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the birthday of Philipp Friedrich Theodor Meckel (1755–1803). Lit Verlag, Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-8258-9755-9 , p. 25.
  3. ^ Johann Christoph Adelung: Continuation and additions to Christian Gottlieb Jöchers general scholarly lexico [...]. Volume 2, Leipzig 1778, column 1882.
  4. ^ Curt Gerhard Lorber: Meckel, Johann Friedrich, d. Ä. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 900.
  5. RM Janjua, R. Schultka, L. Goebbel, TG Pait, CB Shields: The legacy of Johann Friedrich Meckel the Elder (1724-1774). A 4-generation dynasty of anatomists. In: Neurosurgery , Volume 66, Number 4, April 2010, pp. 758-770, doi : 10.1227 / 01.NEU.0000367997.45720.A6 . PMID 20305497 , p. 759.
  6. ^ A b c R. M. Janjua, R. Schultka, L. Goebbel, TG Pait, CB Shields: The legacy of Johann Friedrich Meckel the Elder (1724–1774): a 4-generation dynasty of anatomists. In: Neurosurgery. Volume 66, Number 4, April 2010, pp. 758-770, ISSN  1524-4040 . doi : 10.1227 / 01.NEW.0000367997.45720.A6 . PMID 20305497 , p. 761.
  7. a b c Sabine Schwarz: The anatomical private collection of the Meckel family of anatomists with special consideration of their preparation-technical profile . Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle 2000.
  8. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende: Lexicon of Berlin burial places . Pharus-Plan, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86514-206-1 , pp. 40–41. Description of the grave monument in: Richard Borrmann: The architectural and art monuments of Berlin . Springer, Berlin and Heidelberg 1893, p. 169, also footnote 2.
  9. RM Janjua, R. Schultka, L. Goebbel, TG Pait, CB Shields: The legacy of Johann Friedrich Meckel the Elder (1724–1774): a 4-generation dynasty of anatomists. In: Neurosurgery. Volume 66, Number 4, April 2010, pp. 758-770, ISSN  1524-4040 . doi : 10.1227 / 01.NEW.0000367997.45720.A6 . PMID 20305497 , pp. 760f.
  10. ^ List of members since 1666: Letter M. Académie des sciences, accessed on January 21, 2020 (French).