- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Vater-Pacini bodies

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Large – between 2 and 3 mm – ovoid, sensory end organ consisting of concentric layers or lamellae of connective tissue surrounding a nerve ending. The most complicated of the nerve endings, they are present in tendons, intermuscular septa, connective tissue membranes, and sometimes internal organs. These corpuscles are sensitive to deep or heavy pressure and to vibrations up to 400 cycles a second.

They were first noted in the skin of the fingers by Vater in 1717. He called them the papillae nervae and they were depicted by his student, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, in 1741. They were apparently forgotten and were rediscovered in 1831 by Filipp Pacini (1812-1883) in a hand that he was dissecting as a student in the anatomy class in Pistoia hospital. Pacinis description was printed in 1840. In 1844 Friedrich Gustav Jacob Henle (1809-1885) and Albert Kölliker (1817-1905) named these structures Pacinian corpuscles.


  • A. Vater:
    De calculis in locis inusitatis natis et per vias insolitas exclusis. 1741.
  • F. Pacini:
    Nuovi organi scoperti nel corpo humano. Pistoja, tipog. Cino, 1840.
  • F. Henle and A Kölliker:
    Ueber die Pacini’schen Körperchen. Zürich, 1844.
  • R. Kowalzik, B. Hermann, H. Biedermann, et al:
    Two-point Discrimination of Vibratory Perception on the Sole of the Human Foot.
    Foot and Ankle International; 1996, 17 (10): 629-634.

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