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Illuminating the life and scientific work of Abraham Vater (1684-1751)

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Illuminating the life and scientific work of Abraham Vater (1684-1751)

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One of the most known clinical and surgical anatomical eponyms is that of the "ampulla of Vater" in recognition of the famous Anatomist Abraham Vater, who among others scientists discovered the hepatopancreatic ampulla. An effort is made in the cur-rent study to introduce the reader into the life, the scientific work and some personal aspects of Abraham Vater. The quality of the personality of the famous anatomist apart from his scientific discoveries could be an example to every modern scientist while seeking his path into the scientific community. © 2017 Surgical Society of Northern Greece. All rights reserved.
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Koutsouflianiotis K., et al. Surg Chron 2017; 22(4): 232-234.
232
Special article
Illuminating the life and scientific work of Abraham Vater (1684-1751)
Konstantinos N. Koutsouflianiotis, George K. Paraskevas, Basileios Papaziogas, Kalliopi Iliou, Nikoletta Kalitsa, Theo-
dosios Bitsis, George Noussios
Department of Anatomy and Surgical Anatomy, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Abstract
One of the most known clinical and surgical anatomical eponyms is that of the “ampulla of Vater” in recognition of the famous
Anatomist Abraham Vater, who among others scientists discovered the hepatopancreatic ampulla. An effort is made in the cur-
rent study to introduce the reader into the life, the scientific work and some personal aspects of Abraham Vater. The quality of
the personality of the famous anatomist apart from his scientific discoveries could be an example to every modern scientist
while seeking his path into the scientific community.
Key-words: ampulla of Vater, anatomy, history.
Abraham Vater [Fig.1] was born in Wittenberg on Decem-
ber 9, 1684. He was the son of the physician and later Pro-
fessor of Medicine at Wittenberg University, Christian Va-
ter. Abraham Vater obtained his doctorate in Philosophy at
Wittenberg in 1706 and his doctorate in Medicine at Leipzig
in 1710 [1]. He travelled to the most distinguished medical
institutions of his time, in specific Jena, Ausgburg, Nurem-
berg, Utrecht, Leiden, Amsterdam, London, Haarlem and
Hamburg before returning to Wittenberg in 1711 [2]. In
1712 was appointed at Wittenberg University lecturer
without salary, in 1717 was promoted to Professor “ex-
traordinarius” of Anatomy and Botany, in 1733 after the
death of his father was appointed to the chair of Anatomy
as Professor tertius, in 1737 became Professor secundus at
the chair of Pathology and finally in 1746 took the position
of Professor primus at the chair of Therapy. Abraham Vater
died on November 18, 1751 after 5 days of jaundice [3].
Fig.1 Abraham Vater (1684-1751). The famous German physician
and anatomist (Public domain).
Vater’s scientific work is very extensive. He wrote on
surgery, gynecology, pharmacology, pathology, therapeu-
tics, chemistry and botany. Boerner, a German physician
who lived in the same period with Vater, in 1748 listed
alone 49 disputationes and 42 programmae, epistolae et
tractatus [1]. The famous “ampulla of Vater” or “papilla
duodeni” or “hepatopancreatic ampulla” was described in
Vater’s treatise under the title “Dissertario de novo bilis
diverticulo circa orificium ductus choledochi et de valvulosa
colli felleae vesicae constructione atque singularis utrimque
structurae eximia utilitate in via bilis determinate” which
was published in 1720 and means “Treatise on a new diver-
ticulum near the orifice of the common bile duct and also
on the valvular arrangement in the neck of the gallbladder,
both very important structures for the passage of bile”.
Howard and Hess mention that Vater wrote the treatise in
1711, nine years before its publication [2]. In the above-
mentioned work Vater noticed that the pancreatic duct
merge with the bile duct in a complicated way and both end
as an elevation of the mucosa, the so-called ampulla. He
used the injection technique by Frederik Ruysch (1638-
1731), the famous Dutsch anatomist who had met during
his travelling, to display that the ampulla had two orifices
and it is consisted of a mixture of the branches of the two
organs [4]. The Ruysch technique included post mortal vas-
cular injections with an injection mixture originating from
red colored minerals, in order even the smallest blood ves-
sels to be visualized and easily dissected [5].
Earlier than Vater, the ampulla was described by Samuel
Collins (1618-1710) in 1685 in his treatise “A systeme of
anatomy, treating of the body of man, beasts, birds, fish,
insects and plants. Illustrated with many schemes, consist-
ing of variety of elegant figures, drawn from the life, and
engraven in seventy four Folio copper plates and after eve-
ry part of man’s body hath been anatomically described, its
diseases, cases and cures are concisely exhibited” [Fig.2].
Collins was an English anatomist who was appointed physi-
cian in ordinary to Charles II and Lumleian lecturer in the
Koutsouflianiotis K., et al. Surg Chron 2017; 22(4): 232-234.
233
College of Physicians of London [9]. In specific, Collins 35
years before Vater noticed the existence of the ampulla,
which was cited as follows: “…The termination of the pan-
creatic duct is inserted, about four fingers below the pylo-
rus, where a prominence, or little teat, may be discovered
near the flexure of the duodenum, about the egress of the
porus bilarius in man, and in dogs at a fingers breadth dis-
tance below the entrance of the hepatic duct (into the duo-
denum) into which it is sometimes inserted” [6]. Almost in
the same time Giovanni Domenico Santorini in his work
entitled “Observationum Anatomicarum” in 1724 had pre-
scribed the “ampulla of Vater” [4]. Furthermore, Andreas
Vesalius, the famous Belgian anatomist who was considered
as the “Reformer of the Anatomy” in his epic textbook
“Fabric of Human Anatomy” published in 1543 described
although obscurely the “ampulla of Vater [6].
Fig.2 Front-page of the “Systeme of Anatomy” by Samuel Collins
published in 1685 (Public Domain).
Vater’s restless spirit guided him to investigate also the
locking mechanism of the foramen ovale in his work “De
modo mechanico, quo foramen ovale et canalis arteriosus
cordis post respirationem clauditur” in 1719 [1] and the so-
called “Pacini-Vater corpuscle”, the mechanoreceptor in
mammalians skin, in his treatise “Oeconomia sensuum ex
speciali organorum sensoriorum et sigillatim ex papillarum
nervearum textura mechanice demonstrate” in 1717 [7].
Furthermore Vater published papers supporting smallpox
vaccination which began as an informal technique around
1720 and was later developed by Edward Jenner in 1794
[2]. Moreover, he wrote a section in the “Opera omnia ana-
tomico-medico-chirurgica” by Frederick Ruysch [7] [Fig.3].
Fig.3 Front-page of the “Opera omnia anatomico-medico-
chirurgica” by Frederick Ruysch in which Abraham Vater wrote a
section (Public domain).
Abraham Vater was elected to the Royal Society in Lon-
don and to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1721 and
1728, respectively, in recognition of his work. His continu-
ous efforts to establish a University hospital in Wittenberg
failed repeatedly [3], but he succeeded in founding a fa-
mous Museum, the “Museum anatomicum proprium” [1].
Abraham Vater is considered the first Professor to teach
anatomy in women [8] and the first to supervise a Universi-
ty doctorate of an African student, W. Amo from Guinea [3].
Vater’s extensive anatomical collection was later thorough-
ly studied and showed off at the University of Halle by Jo-
hann Friedrich Meckel the younger (1781-1833), the Ger-
man anatomist who discovered the Meckel’s diverticulum
[1].
In conclusion, the words mentioned for A. Vater by Sir
Thomas Browne (1605-1682), an English polymath and au-
thor of varied works, are worthy to be noted: “To be con-
tent that times to come should only know there was such a
man, not caring whether they knew more of him” [7]. Abra-
ham Vater can be considered a worth-mentioning Anato-
mist, not only for his discoveries and his widely extended
scientific work, but also for his academic quality and sensi-
tivity, free from stereotypes of his era, dedicated to produc-
ing and spreading the scientific knowledge, without discrim-
inations.
Koutsouflianiotis K., et al. Surg Chron 2017; 22(4): 232-234.
234
References
1. Wackwitz W. Abraham Vater (1684-1751). Anat Anz. 1985; 160(1):77-
79.
2. Howard JM, Hess W. History of the pancreas Mysteries of a hidden
organ. New York: Kluwer Academic/ plenum publishers, 2002.
3. Lerch MM, Domschke W. Abraham Vater of the ampulla (papilla) of
Vater. Gastroenterology. 2000; 118(2):379,
4. Beger H, Warshaw A, Buchler M, Kozarek R, Lerch M, Neoptolemos J,
Shiratori K, Whitcomb D. The pancreas, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell
Publishing, 2008.
5. Boer L, Radziun AB, Oostra R-J. Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731): Historical
perspective and contemporary analysis of his teratological legacy. Am
J Med Genet. 2017; 173A:16-41.
6. Stern CD. A historical perspective on the discovery of the accessory
duct of the pancreas, the ampulla ‘of Vater’ and pancreas divisum.
Gut. 1986; 27(2):203-212.
7. Nova et vetera. Abraham Vater (1684-1751). BMJ. 1951; 1214.
8. Somford MP, Marres GM, van der Schelling GP. Excellent enteric ex-
plorers. J Gastrointestin Liver Dis. 2009; 18(4):469-472.
9. Stephen L. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, vol 11 Clater-
Condell. London: Elder Smith & Co, 1887.
Correspondence to:
Konstantinos Koutsouflianiotis,
Papanastasiou 95 Thessaloniki,
e-mail: kostaskoutsouf@yahoo.gr,
tel: 00302310952652
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Article
Full-text available
The Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) in Saint Petersburg is the oldest museum in Russia. It keeps the remains of the anatomical collection of the world-famous 17th century Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch. This unique collection was bought and shipped in 1717 by Czar Peter the Great, and presently still comprises more than 900 specimens, a modest number of which concerns specimens with congenital anomalies. We searched for teratological clues in the existing collection and in all his descriptions and correspondence regarding specimens and cases he encountered during his career as doctor anatomiae and chief instructor of the surgeons and midwives in Amsterdam. A total of 63 teratological specimens and case descriptions were identified in this legacy, including some exceedingly rare anomalies. As it turns out, Ruysch was the first to describe several of the conditions we encountered, including intracranial teratoma, enchondromatosis, and Majewski syndrome. Although his comments pose an interesting view on how congenital anomalies were scientifically perceived in early 18th century Europe, Ruysch mostly refrained from explaining the causes of the conditions he encountered. Instead, he dedicated himself to careful descriptions of his specimens. Almost 300 years after his demise, Ruysch's legacy still impresses and inspires both scientists and lay men. © 2016 The Authors. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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As if following the natural course of an ingested particle, several structures in the gastrointestinal tract which were named after their discoverers are presented including concise backgrounds of these pioneers of the human intestines.
Article
The discovery of the accessory duct of the pancreas is usually ascribed to Giovanni Domenico Santorini (1681-1737), after whom this structure is named. The papilla duodeni (ampulla 'of Vater', or papilla 'of Santorini') is named after Abraham Vater (1684-1751) or after GD Santorini. Pancreas divisum, a persistence through non-fusion of the embryonic dorsal and ventral pancreas is a relatively common clinical condition, the discovery of which is usually ascribed to Joseph Hyrtl (1810-1894). In this review I report that pancreas divisum, the accessory duct and the papilla duodeni (ampulla 'of Vater') had all been observed and the observations published during the 17th century by at least seven anatomists before Santorini, Vater, and Hyrtl. I further suggest, in the light of frequent anatomical misattributions in common usage, that anatomical structures be referred to only by their proper anatomical names.
  • W Abraham Wackwitz
  • Vater
Wackwitz W. Abraham Vater (1684-1751). Anat Anz. 1985; 160(1):77-79.
  • Vetera Abraham Nova
  • Vater
Nova et vetera. Abraham Vater (1684-1751). BMJ. 1951; 1214.