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What’s In A Name?

The ventral spinocerebellar tract conveys proprioceptive information from the body to the cerebellum.

Historically, it has also been known as Gowers' column (or fasciculus or tract), after Sir William Richard Gowers.

By why?

Why do so many anatomical terms have names associated with the man (always a man!) who “discovered” it?

This issue has been around for a while, but we thought it was worth putting it out there that the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System blog page fully supports the effort to de-eponymize anatomical terms.

How many such names are there?

More than you might think. Here’s a list from Wikipedia.

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

For instance:

Artery of Charcot, a.k.a. Anterolateral central arteries, named for the French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.

Or the Bundle of His, a.k.a. Atrioventricular bundle, named for Swiss cardiologist Wilhelm His.

Or the Circle of Willis, a.k.a. Cerebral arterial circle, named for a 17th century English physician, Thomas Willis.

Not to mention Adam’s Apple. And should Fallopian tubes be named after a man?

As has been widely pointed out, these names are hard to memorize and they do nothing to indicate the shape, location, or function of the various structures.

As the Aula of Anatomia points out here, the first attempt to standardize and create an international anatomical nomenclature took place in 1895. In successive congresses of Anatomy in 1933, 1936 and 1950 revisions were made and finally in 1955, in Paris, the Anatomical Nomenclature, known under the acronym of P.N.A. (Paris Nomina Anatomica).

“Subsequent revisions were made in 1960, 1965 and 1970, as the anatomical nomenclature has a dynamic character and can always be criticized and modified, provided that there are sufficient reasons for the modifications and that they are approved at International Congresses of Anatomy. The officially adopted language is Latin (because it is a “dead language”), but each country can translate it into its own vernacular.”

So we support the effort to de-eponymize across the board. Let’s all work together on this.

Until we fix this, it’s sort of a weakness in our science.

Kind of like an Achilles Heel.

Of course we mean calcaneal tendon.


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