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Friedrich Sigmund Merkel

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Friedrich Merkel

Friedrich Sigmund Merkel (5 April 1845 – 28 May 1919) was a leading German anatomist and histopathologist of the late 19th century. In 1875, he provided the first full description of Tastzellen (touch cells), which occur in the skin of all vertebrates.[1] They were subsequently given the eponym "Merkel cells" in 1878 by Robert Bonnet (1851–1921).

Merkel was a native of Nürnberg. In 1869 he earned his medical doctorate from the University of Erlangen, becoming habilitated in the field of anatomy during the following year. He was a professor at the Universities of Rostock (from 1872), Königsberg (from 1883) and Göttingen (from 1885). At Göttingen, he worked under Jacob Henle and married Henle's daughter Anne. He published a multivolume textbook on human anatomy and originated the color scheme used by most anatomy texts today: red for arteries, blue for veins, and yellow for nerves.[2] He introduced xylene as a clearing agent in histology, and it is still used today[3] Two of his better known assistants were Dietrich Barfurth (1849-1927) and Hermann Kuhnt (1850-1925).

The term "Merkel's spur" is synonymous with the femoral calcar.[4]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Makroskopische Anatomie des Auges und seiner Umgebungen; In Handbuch der Augenheilkunde; Leipzig, 1874; second edition with Erich Kallius (1867-1935) in 1901 - Macroscopic anatomy of the eye and its environment.
  • Das Mikroskop und seine Anwendung, 1875 - The microscope and its application.
  • Über die Endigungen der sensiblen Nerven in der Haut der Wirbeltiere, Rostock, 1880 - On sensory nerve terminations in the skin of vertebrates.
  • Handbuch der topographischen Anatomie 1885 to 1907 - Manual of topographical anatomy.
  • Ergebnisse der Anatomie und Entwickelungsgeschichte; from 1892, one annual volume, published with Robert Bonnet (1851-1921) - Anatomical results and developmental history.
  • Menschliche Embryonen verschiedenen Alters auf Medianschnitten untersucht, 1894.
  • Die Anatomie des Menschen. Mit Hinweisen auf die ärztliche Praxis, (11 volumes) 1913 to 1918 - Human anatomy, with reference to the practice of medicine.[5]


  1. ^ Merkel FS. (1875). Tastzellen und Tastkörperchen bei den Hausthieren und beim Menschen. Archiv für mikroskopische Anatomie, 11: 636-652.
  2. ^ Robert Denison Griffith; Mohammad-Ali Yazdani Abyaneh; Leyre Falto-Aizpurua; Keyvan Nouri (August 2014). "Demystifying Merkel". JAMA Dermatol. 150 (8): 814. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.225. PMID 25133439.
  3. ^ Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB). Band 17 Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-428-00198-2, S. 145 f.
  4. ^ Merkel's spur @ Who Named It
  5. ^ Friedrich Sigmund Merkel - bibliography @ Who Named It

External links[edit]