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ZINN, Johann Gottfried (1727–1759)

Descriptio anatomica oculi humani iconibus illustrata.
Gottingæ, apud vidam Abrami Vandenhoeck, 1755.

First edition of a fundamental work on the anatomy of the eye. Hirschberg concurs that this milestone in the history of ophthalmology is the first complete work in world literature (including Arabian)on the subject. Zinn’s accuracy in the descriptions put all the works of his predecessors in the shadow. Zinn correctly described and depicted 'fibræ radiatæ’ and showed that the number of fiber bundles in the optic nerve is constant and continuous with those of the retina. His name is preserved in those of several of the finer structures of the eye: the central artery of Zinn, circulet of Zinn, zonule of Zinn, etc. The 28 figures, engraved by Joel Paul Kaltenhofer, reached a new height in accurate graphic representation, at last the eye could be recognized in the modern sense appearing as it would in a careful dissection both in situ in the orbit and enucleated. A second edition was published by Heinrich August Wrisberg in 1780. “Zinn’s masterpiece, and the first anatomy of the eye. Written long before it was possible to examine the interior of the living eye, the description of the ciliary body, the iris, and the ocular blood vessels and nerves are remarkable for their precision and thoroughness” (Albert). Zinn was one of Haller’s favourite pupils. In 1753 he was appointed professor of medicine at Göttingen and also director of the Botanical Garden. He published a catalogue of the plants in the garden, which was much praised by Linnaeus, who named the Zinnia plant in his honour. Zinn died of phthisis at the early age of 32.

Collation: Pp (16), 272, with 7 folding engraved plates.

Binding: Contemporary half calf, sprinkled boards, gilt ruled spine, with five raised bands.

References: Garrison-Morton 1484; Hirschberg § 463; Becker 426; Albert 2580: Heirs of Hippocrates 607; Arrington, History of Ophthalmology, p 74. Waller 10493.

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