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Benedict Stilling

Born  1810
Died  1879

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German anatomist and surgeon, born February 11, 1810, Kirchhain, Kurfürstenthum Hessen; died January 28, 1879, Cassel.

Biography of Benedict Stilling

Benedict Stilling was born in Kirchhain in Hessen-Nassau, and already at the age of six he had made up his mind to be a surgeon.. In 1828 he went to Marburg to commence his medical study, which he completed by receiving his medical doctorate in 1832. One year later he entered a position as assistant in Christoph Ullmann’s (1773-1849) surgical clinic, and published his famous papers on “Gefässdurchschlingung”. In it he indicates new methods of operative removal of thromboses. His religious confession prevented him from pursuing an academic career, but towards the end of the year 1833 he became the first Jewish civil servant in the principality of Hesse-Cassel by accepting the position of Landgerichts-Wundarzt (surgeon to the electoral law courts) in Kassel.

Seven years later, in 1840, because somebody thought he – a Jew – had risen to high, he was ordered to transfer to Eiterfeld (literally "Pusfield"), a mean burgh. Unwilling to comply, Stilling quit his job, and for the rest of his life devoted himself to his ever growing private practice. He first went to Paris to obtain contact with the most famous physicians of his time, among them Francois Magendie (1783-1855), and Jean Zuléma Amussat (1796-1856), who instructed him in the operations in the urethras He stayed in Paris for several years, only broken off by a journey to Nizza and other southern parts of Europe.

During his second stay in Paris, from 1843, he made friends with Claude Bernard (1813-1873), Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard (1817-1894), Pierre François Olive Rayer (1793-1867), and Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893). In 1858 Stilling undertook a sustained educational journey to Italy, and, in 1869 another to London, Edinburgh, and finally Vienna. In between he always returned to Kassel, where he died in 1879. Following Prussia’s annexation of Hessen Stilling was appointed Geheimer Sanitätsrath.

Besides his important research in anatomy, above all in the field of the nerves and the brain, Stilling also achieved himself as a surgeon. In 1832 he homografted the cornea of a rabbit. In Paris he improved his knowledge of surgical treatment of the urine tract, and proved himself an exceptionally competent surgeon of gynaecology. He was the first to perform ovariotomy in Germany, and with great success at that, as he preferred the extraperitoneal method in order to avoid internal haemorrhages. His paper on this, Geschichte einer Exstirpation eines krankhaft vergrösserten Ovariums . . . received little notice. 10 years later, therefore, the English physician Edward Wilson Duffin (1800-1874) also invented this method (Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, XXXIV), claiming priority without receiving any protests.

In 1840 Benedikt Stilling published his most famous work, on neurology, in which he first discusses vasomotoric nerves, thus founding the teaching of the vasomotoric nervous system. he subsequently published numerous works on such themes. Of particular interest are his histological investigations of the Pons varoli and the structure of the cerebellum, as well as the microscopic build of the spine marrow and the nerves.

Benedict Stilling was the father of Jakob Stilling (1842-1915) and Heinrich Stilling (1853-1911).


  • De pupilla artificiali in sclerotica conformanda.
    Doctoral dissertation, Marburg, 1832. German translation:
  • Die künstliche Pupillenbildung in der Sclerotica. Nebst einem Anhange über die Verpflanzung der Hornahut Keratoplastik. Marburg, Elwert, 1833.
  • Die Bildung und Metamorphose des Blutpfropfs oder Thrombus in verletzten Blutgefässen. Eisenach, Baerecke, 1834.
  • Die natürlichen Processe bei der Heilung durchslungener Blutgefässe, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf den Thrombus. Eisenach, 1834.
  • Die Gefässdurchslingung. Eine neue Methode, Blutungen aus grösseren Gefässen zu stillen. 1. Abtheilung: Monographie der Operation. Marburg, Elwert, 1834.
  • Geschichte einer Exstirpation eines krankhaft vergrösserten Ovariums nebst einigen Bemerkungen über diese Operation. Allgemeine und physiologische und pathogenetische Erörterungen über Erbrechen etc.
    [Holschers’s] Hannoversche Annalen für die gesammte Heilkunde, Neue Folge, Jahrgang I, 1841.
  • Physiologisch-pathologische und medicinisch-praktische Untersuchungen über die Spinal-Irritation. Leipzig, Wigand, 1840. First mentioning of vasomotor nerves.
  • Untersuchungen über die Textur des Rückenmarks.
    With Joseph Wallach (1813-1878), Leipzig, 1842. Heft 2 Stilling alone:
  • Über Textur und Functionen der Medulla Medulla oblongata.
    Erlangen, Enke, 1843.
  • Untersuchungen über den Bau und die Verrichtungen des Gehirns. I. Über den Bau des Hirnknotens oder der Varolischen Brücke.
    Latin translation under the title of:
  • Disquisitiones de structura et functionibus cerebri. 1. De structura protuberantiae annularis sive pontis Varolii. Jena, Mauke, 1847.
  • Beiträge zur Natur- und Heilkunde. 7 booklets. 1st booklet entitled Anatomische und mikroskopische Untersuchungen über den feineren Bau der Nerven und Primitivfasern und der Nervenzelle. Frankfurt am Main, 1856.
  • Neue Untersuchungen über den Bau des Rückenmarks mit einem Atlas mikroskopischer Abbildungen von 30. lith. Taff., nebst 1 grossen Wandtafel.
    5 deliveries, Kassel, Hotop, 1857-1859.
  • Untersuchungen über den Bau des kleinen Gehirns des Menschen. 3 volumes.
    Volume 1: Untersuchungen über den Bau des Züngelchens und seiner Hemisphären-Theile, mot Atlas von 9 Taff. Kassel, 1864.
    Volume 2: Untersuchungen über den Bau des Centralläppchens und der Flügel, mit 5. Taff. Kassel, 1867.
    Volume 3: Untersuchungen über den Bau des Bergs und der vorderen Oberlappen, sowie über die Organisation der centralen weissen Marksubstanz des Cerebellum und ihrer grauen Kerne und über die centralen Ursprungsstätten und Bahnen der Kleinhirn-Schenkel, nämlich der Bindearme, der Brücken-Arme und der strickförmigen Körper. Kassel, 1868.
  • Ein Blatt zur neuesten Geschichte der Heilung der Harnröhren-Verengungen mittelst der inneren Urethrotomie. Kassel, 1856.
  • Die Extra-Peritonealmethode der Ovariotomie. Berlin, 1866.
  • Zur inneren Urethrotomie. Beiträge zur Geschichte dieser Operationen und der zu ihr erfundenen Instrumente, sowie zur Ehrenrettung Stafford’s.
    Berlin, 1866. Referring to Richard Anthony Stafford (1801-1854).
  • Die rationelle Behandlung der Harnröhrenstricturen. Auf der Basis einer pragmatischen Geschichte der Urethrotomie dargestellt. Kassel, 1870-1872.
  • Adolf Kussmaul (1822-1902):
    Dr. Benedict Stilling. Gedächtnisrede, gehalten auf der 52. Versammlung deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte aus Baden-Baden am 18.9.1879. Strassburg, 1879.

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