- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Johann Gottfried Zinn

Born  1727
Died  1759

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German anatomist, ophthalmologist, and botanist, born December 4, 1727, Ansbach, Mittelfranken; died April 6, 1759, Göttingen.

Biography of Johann Gottfried Zinn

Johann Gottfried Zinn commenced his medical studies in his native city of Ansbach in Mittelfranken. He then came to Göttingen where he was one of Albrecht von Haller's (1798-1777) best students and obtained his doctorate in 1749. He left Haller and Göttingen for Berlin in order to perfect his knowledge of anatomy and at the same time study botany.

In 1753 Zinn was called back to Göttingen as extraordinary professor of medicine and director of the botanical gardens in this university town. Zinn accepted the invitation, but had little time to realise his ambitions, dying at the early age of 32.

The close working relationship between Zinn and Haller was advantageous to both scientists, but for medicine Zinn's stay in Berlin is the more important. Here he had available an extensive material for the pursuit of his ophthalmological research. He was one of the first to render an accurate description of the eyeball and he investigated the vessels and nerves of the eye cavity.

His written works mainly concerns the results of his investigations, as well as important works on botany. His most important work is undoubtedly Descriptio anatomica oculi humani, a fundamental work in the history of ophthalmology. His name is preserved in those of several finer structures of the eye.

Besides the works mentioned below, Zinn published in Hamburgisches Magazin, Göttinger gelehrten Anzeigen, Hannoverschen Sammlungen.

In his honour Linné named a genus of plants "Zinnia".


  • Progr. de ligamentis ciliaribus.
    Göttingen, typ. J. C. L. Schulzii, 1753.
  • Observationibus quaedam botanicae et anatomicae de vasis subtilioribus oculi et chochleae auris internae ad illustr. Werlhofium. Göttingen, 1753.
  • De l’enveloppe des nerfs. Mémoires de l’Académie de Berlin, 1753.
  • Descriptio anatomica oculi humani.
    Gottingae, apud viduam B. Abrami Vandenhoeck, 1755.
    Nunc altera vice edita, et necessario supplemento, novisque tabulis aucta ab Heinrich August Wrisberg,. Göttingen, 1780. A medical classic.
  • Descriptio plantarum horti et agri Goettingensis. Göttingen, 1757. Biographical:
  • August Hirsch (1817-1894), publisher:
    Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte aller Zeiten und Völker.
    2nd edition. Berlin, Urban & Schwarzenberg, 1929.
    First published in 6 volumes 1884-1888. 3rd edition, München 1962.
  • Peter Beighton & Gretha Beighton:
    The Man Behind the Syndrome. Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg, 1986.
  • Heirs of Hippocrates.
    Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries. Iowa City, 1980
  • Richard Toellner:
    Illustrierte Geschichte der Medizin. Andreas & Andreas Verlag, Salzburg, 1990.
    Original title: Histoire de la Médicine, de la Pharmacie, de l'Art Dentaire et de l'Art Vétérinaire. Paris 1978.
  • Jeremy M. Norman, editor:
    Morton’s Medical Bibliography. An annotated Check-list of Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine (Garrison and Morton).
    Fifth edition. Scolar Press, 1991.

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