Johann Friedrich Meckel The Younger

Johann Friedrich Meckel (the younger) (1781 – 1833) was a German anatomist.

Anatomical pathologist concentrating on the study of congenital malformations and the developmental aspects of lungs and blood vessels

He described the Meckel diverticulum he found during a postmortem examination. Its embryological significance however, he never recognized

Founder of the science of teratology, later termed the Meckel- Serres law

  • Born 1781
  • medical studies in Halle
  • 1801 – Anatomist studying comparative anatomy, University of Göttingen
  • 1802 – Doctorate with thesis: De cordis conditionibus abnormibus
  • Traveled Europe to study with noted anatomists. Translated the 5 volumes of ‘Lecons d’anatomie comparée‘ by Baron Goerges Cuvier (1769–1832) into German [System der vergleichenden anatomie].
  • 1806 – Returned to Halle, but it was now under occupation of Napoleon and his army. Thankfully Napoleon took residence in the Meckel family home which led to the preservation of their significant anatomical collections.
  • 1815 – Editor of ‘Deutsches Archiv für die Physiologie‘ – Meckel wrote in the first volume preface he would rigorously support only those articles for publication that relied on scientific observation and experiments as compared to assumption and speculation.
  • Died 1833
Medical Eponyms
  • Meckel diverticulum (diverticulum Meckelii) (1809) most congenital abnormality of the small intestine. True congenital diverticulum caused by an incomplete obliteration of the vitelline duct (omphalomesenteric duct)
  • Meckel cartilage (1820)
  • Meckel syndrome (1822)
  • Meckel-Serres Conception of Recapitulation. 1808 Meckel outlines the idea that embryonic stages of higher forms recapitulate the forms of animals that reside lower on the great chain of being. Meckel used malformations, which he saw as the results of early terminations to development, to help support his theory of recapitulation
Major Publications

Confusion may reign over the 4 generations of medical Meckels…

  • Grandfather: Johann Friedrich Meckel the Elder (1724–1774) – Professor of anatomy and surgical obstetrics at the University of Halle. Eponyms: Meckel’s ganglion, ligament and Space. Dissertation on the fifth cranial nerve included the first description of the arachnoid space investing the trigeminal nerve into the middle fossa.
  • Father: Philipp Friedrich Theodor Meckel (1781-1833) – Professor of anatomy and surgical obstetrics at the University of Halle
  • Himself: Johann Friedrich Meckel the Younger (1756–1803)
  • Younger brother: August Albrecht Meckel (1790-1892) – Professor of anatomy and forensic medicine at the University of Bonn
  • Son: Johann Heinrich Meckel (1821-1856) – Professor of pathologic anatomy at the University of Berlin
  • Berger M, Muensterer O, Harmon CM. Tales from previous times: important eponyms in pediatric surgery. Pediatr Surg Int. 2014 Jan;30(1):1-10 [PMID 23955255]
  • Janjua RM, Schultka R, Goebbel L, Pait TG, Shields CB. The legacy of Johann Friedrich Meckel the Elder (1724-1774): a 4-generation dynasty of anatomists. Neurosurgery. 2010 Apr;66(4):758-70; discussion 770-1. [PMID 20305497]
  • O’Connell L. The Meckel-Serres Conception of Recapitulation. 2013 Embryo Project 

Studied at the University of Oxford - BA BM BCh. British doctor working in Emergency Medicine in Poole, Dorset. Special interests include respiratory medicine, critical care, and wilderness medicine.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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