An morbi, qui dentium translocationem sequuntur, venerei sint, nec ne? - 1792
Philipp Friedrich Theodor
Meckel (1755-1803), (supervising professor)
Friederich William Werfel (defending)
Philipp Friedrich Theodor Meckel comes from a distinguished family of anatomists, physicians and scientist. His father was Johann Friedrich Meckel, the Elder (1724-1774), a professor of anatomy, botany, and obstetrics, discoverer of the submandibular ganglion, (at the time called the submaxillary ganglion), the discoverer of Meckel’s ganglion a.k.a. the sphenopalatine ganglion, and Meckel’s cave, also known as the trigeminal cave.
Born on April 30, 1755 in Berlin, Germany, Philipp rose to become professor of anatomy and surgical obstetrics at the University of Halle. Like his father, Philipp started his medical education at the University of Göttingen and continued at the University of Strasbourg. At age 21, in 1777 Philipp Meckel successfully defended his dissertation on the labyrinth of the inner ear, Dissertatio anatomico-physiologica de labyrinthi auris contentis. After an extended study trip to Paris, London, and Edinburgh, in 1779 at the age of 23, Philipp became professor of anatomy and surgical obstetrics at the University of Halle. His skills in midwifery earned him two invitations to St. Petersburg to the court of Catherine the Great, Tzarina of Russia. During his second trip in 1797, he had his 16-year-old son, Johann Friedrich Meckel, the Younger, accompany him. Philipp named his son after his father Johann Friedrich Meckel, the Younger (1781-1833). His son too became a professor of pathological anatomy, surgery, and obstetrics at the University of Halle in 1808 and was the editor of the renowned Archiv für Anatomie und Physiologie from 1815 till his death. Continuing the family tradition, in 1820 he described the embryonic cartilaginous bar from which the mandible develops, the structure that bears his name, the Meckel’s cartilage.
Philipp Friedrich Theodor Meckel has supervised numerous theses during his tenure at the University of Halle. The dissertation thesis in our collection, “An morbi, qui dentium translocationem sequuntur, venerei sint, nec ne?” was written and defended successfully by Frederick William Werfel in 1792. We know very little about the student, except that he raised an interesting question: Does transplantation of human teeth from another individual carries the risk of venereal diseases? In essence Frederick Werfel asks, could a healthy person get venereal disease via a tooth transplant from an infected person? His conclusion is yes. Given the popularity (and lucrative nature) of tooth transplantation at the time it is no wonder he got his distractors who said no to that same question. Perhaps, the negative answer is not surprising if dentists did not specifically monitor for venereal disease in donors prior to-, and in recipients post transplantation.
The dissertation thesis in our collection is relatively rare and so far, unavailable digitally anywhere else. We are proud to provide a digital copy for those interested in studying this short but valuable contribution from the late 18th century.
(Based on research and essay by Vaughn Christopher Ayroso, class of 2024 as part of his assignment in the Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry Course Fall 2020).