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Moritz Schiff

Born  1823
Died  1896

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German physiologist, born January 28, 1823, Frankfurt am Main; died; died October 6, 1896, Geneva.

Biography of Moritz Schiff

Moritz Schiff was an apprentice at the Senckenbergische Institut in his native town. He subsequently studied in Heidelberg, Berlin, and Göttingen, where he obtained his doctorate. He then went to Paris in order to study physiology under François Magendie (1783-1855) and François Achille Longet (1811-1871), and zoology in the Jardin des plantes. Upon his return to Frankfurt he became director of the ornitological part of the zoological museum. In 1848 he served with the revolutionary army of Baden as a physician

From 1854 to 1863 he was professor of contemporary anatomy at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Before this he had attempted to become habilitated as Privatdozen of zoology in Göttingen, but this was recjected by the Hannoverian government, because of alleged dangerous doctrines of his youth.

From 1863 to 1876 he was professor pf physiology at the Istituto di Studii superiori in Florence, then professor of physiology at the University of Geneva, where he died in 1896,

Schiff was one of the most important biologists of the ninteenth century. His first major contribution to medical science was in 1856, when he proved that removal of the thyroid gland in dogs was fatal. He later discovered that death could be prevented by grafts or injections of thyroid extracts. Schiff went to a butcher's shop and asked for thyroid glands from sheep. He grinded it and gave it to his patients that had been operated for struma. They received injections of the extract twice a week, and after a few motnhs the patients were cured.

Schiff was the first to note the influence of the cerebral cortex on blood circulation, the role of the vagus nerve in heart function and Schiff's biliary cycle.

Schiff was critisised for his animal experiments. He was forced to abandon his laboratory in Florence, and flee to Switzerland after being put on trial by antivivisectionists. At his trial, he made an eloquent defense of the need and moral justification for animal experimentation. However, he was an early user of anaesthetics on hos experimental animals.

Moritz Schiff was the brother of the chemist Hugo (Ugo) Schiff, 1834-1915, who spent most of his career in Florence.


  • De vi motoria baseos encephali inquisitones experimentales. Bockenheim, 1845.
  • Die Ursache der Lungenveränderung nach Durchschneidung der pneumogastrischen Nerven.
    Archiv für physiologische Heilkunde, 1847, 6: 690-721 and 769-804.
    Study of the effects of section of the vagus on respiration.
  • Ueber den Einfluss der Vagusdurchschneidung auf das Lungengewebe.
    Archiv für physiologische Heilkunde, 1850, 9: 625-662.
  • Untersuchungen zur Physiologie des Nervensystems mit Berücksichtigung der Pathologie. Frankfurt, 1855.
  • Bericht über einige Versuche, um den Ursprung des Harnzuckers bei künstlichem diabetes zu ermittelt.
    Nachrichten von der Georg-August-Universität und der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 1856: 243-247.
    Schiff's important experiment on the production of artificial diabetes.
  • Lehrbuch der Physiologie des menschen. I. Muskel- und Nerven-Physiologie.
    Lahr, M. Schauenburg, 1858/1859.
    Also given as:
  • Lehrbuch der Muskel- und Nervenphysiologie. Lahr, M. Schauenberg, 1858-1859.
    The only published and completed volume of his Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschen.
  • Untersuchungen über die Zuckerbildung in der Leber und den Einfluss des nervensystems auf die Erzeugung des Diabetes.
    Schweizerische Monatschrift für praktische Medizin, 1859, 4, 267-275.
    This paper includes Schiff's reports on his experimentaø thyroidectomies, which were attended with fatal results. Schiff also wrote a 159-page book with the same title.
  • Untersuchungen über die Zuckerbildung in der Leber und den Einfluss des nervensystems auf die Erzeugung des Diabetes. Würzburg, Stabel, 1859.
  • Sul sistema nervoso encefalico. Florence, 1865. 2nd edition, 1874.
  • Leçons sur la physiologie de la digestion, faites au Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Florence. Redigées par Émile Levier. 2 volumes. Berlin, 1868.
    Florence/Torino/Paris/Berlin, 1867. (4) + 416 plus 759 pages. 2nd edition, 1874.
  • Leçons sur la physiologie de la digestion, redigées par E. Levier.
    2 volumes, Berlin, 1868.
  • Sulla miasura della sensazione. Florence, 1869.
  • De l'inflammation et de la circulation. Paris, 1873.
  • La pupille comme esthesiomètre. Paris, 1875.
  • Resumé d'une nouvelle série d'ezperiences sur les effets de l'ablation des corps thyroides.
    Revue medicale de la Suisse Romande, Lausanne, 1884, 4: 65-75 and 425-445.
    German translation in Archiv für experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie, 1884, 18: 25-34.
  • Bericht über eine Versuchsreeihe betreffend die Wirkungen der Exstirpation der Schilddrüse.
    Archiv für experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie, Leipzig, 1884, 18: 25-34.
    Schiff showed that intra-abdominal transplantation of the gland would obviate fatal results in thyroidectomy.
  • Gesammelte Beiträge zur Physiologie. "Recueil des mémoires physiologiques de M. Schiff. 4 volumes. Lausanne, 1894-1898.
  • J. J. Dreifuss:
    Moritz Schiff et la vivisection. Gesnerus, 1985, 42: 289-303.
  • Patrizia Guarnieri:
    Moritz Schiff (1823-96): Experimental Physiology and Noble Sentiment in Florence.
    Vivisection in Historical Perspective, pp. 105-124.
We thank Rudolf Kleinert, Bad Reichenhall, Germany, for information submitted.

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