Embryology History - Wilhelm His

From Embryology
Embryology - 18 May 2024    Facebook link Pinterest link Twitter link  Expand to Translate  
Google Translate - select your language from the list shown below (this will open a new external page)

العربية | català | 中文 | 中國傳統的 | français | Deutsche | עִברִית | हिंदी | bahasa Indonesia | italiano | 日本語 | 한국어 | မြန်မာ | Pilipino | Polskie | português | ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਦੇ | Română | русский | Español | Swahili | Svensk | ไทย | Türkçe | اردو | ייִדיש | Tiếng Việt    These external translations are automated and may not be accurate. (More? About Translations)


Wilhelm His (1831-1904)
Wilhelm His (1831-1904)
Wilhelm His Histology slide (1860)
Histology slide (1860)

This page contains a series of historic drawings of human embryos by Wilhelm His Sr. (1831-1904). Many of these drawing have been reproduced in embryology historic textbooks, and even today we can easily superimpose his drawings over photographs of current studies of human and animal embryos.

Wilhelm His was born July 9, 1831 in Basel and died May 1, 1904. He was a noted Swiss anatomist and embryologist educated in Basel and Bern, in Berlin. His teachers in Würzburg were Johannes Peter Müller (1801-1858) and Robert Remak (1815-1865) and in Prague and Vienna with Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902). All three of these researchers were major 19th century embryologists.

He also published in 1895 the Basel Nomina Anatomica (BNA)[1] in an attempt to standardise the existing confusing anatomical terminology (see Historic terminology). This nomenclature system was updated through a number of editions until replaced by the Nomina Anatomica (1956) and subsequently by the Terminologia Anatomica (1998). Adolf Ziegler (1820 - 1889) produced many [[[Embryology History - Ziegler Models||embryo models]] based upon His's embryos and drawings. Read also Mall's 1905 paper on His.[2]

Historic Embryology
Arthur Milnes Marshall.jpg
Wilhelm His.jpg

Arthur Milnes Marshall (1852–1893) at Cambridge in 1879 historically first described this embryonic region. In his study of dogfish and chicken brain development, and identified it as "neural crest".[3] See neural crest history and the original 1879 article. Wilhelm His (1831-1904) in 1868 also described in the chick embryo the early neural structure that would form neural crest.

Note that Wilhelm His Jr. (1863 – 1934) was also Swiss-born and an anatomist and cardiologist. Who discovered the cardiac conducting cells, the "bundle of His".

Anatomie menschlicher Embryonen (1882)

His Links: Embryologists | Category:Wilhelm His | Embryology History | The Elements of Embryology by Foster, Balfour, Sedgwick and Heape (1883) | Development Of The Brain (1897) | The Early Embryology of the Chick by Patten (1920) | Text-Book of Embryology by Bailey and Miller (1921) | Ziegler Models

Embryologists: William Hunter | Wilhelm Roux | Caspar Wolff | Wilhelm His | Oscar Hertwig | Julius Kollmann | Hans Spemann | Francis Balfour | Charles Minot | Ambrosius Hubrecht | Charles Bardeen | Franz Keibel | Franklin Mall | Florence Sabin | George Streeter | George Corner | James Hill | Jan Florian | Thomas Bryce | Thomas Morgan | Ernest Frazer | Francisco Orts-Llorca | José Doménech Mateu | Frederic Lewis | Arthur Meyer | Robert Meyer | Erich Blechschmidt | Klaus Hinrichsen | Hideo Nishimura | Arthur Hertig | John Rock | Viktor Hamburger | Mary Lyon | Nicole Le Douarin | Robert Winston | Fabiola Müller | Ronan O'Rahilly | Robert Edwards | John Gurdon | Shinya Yamanaka | Embryology History | Category:People
Related Histology Researchers  
Santiago Ramón y Cajal | Camillo Golgi


Professor Wilhelm His.[4]

BY the death of Professor WILHELM HIS, which took place on May 1st, science has lost the man who has done more than any other during our time to advance and widen the knowledge of anatomy. The vast number of investigations which he carried out during fifty-one years of unremitting and enthusiastic labour have led to marked advances in almost every field of anatomical research, and have established for the University with which he was connected a world-wide reputation.

A Swiss by nationality, HIS was born in Basel on July 9th, 1831. While a student he attended courses in the Universities of Basel, Bern, Berlin, Würzburg, Prag and Vienna, and having completed his medical examinations in 1854, he spent a short time in Paris. Among his teachers are to be enumerated-

Valentin, Muller, Remak and Virchow, and it is especially interesting to note that his first research was undertaken while still a student in Virchow’s laboratory at Würzburg. At the early age of twenty-six HIS was appointed Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in the University of his native city. He left Basel in 1872 to take up the duties of Professor of Anatomy and Director of the Anatomische Anstalt in Leipzig. He held this position during the remainder of his life, and in connection with Leipzig his name will be for ever remembered.

Here HIS was brought into the closest association with Carl Ludwig, and Wilhelm Braune, forming with them a trio each member of which has in his own department done so much to render the medical school of the University of Leipzig famous.

The published works of HIs — among the earliest of which are papers dealing with the structure of the cornea, the thymus and the lymphatics — bear testimony to the marvellous diversity of his researches, and are a monument of genius and industry. A list of published papers drawn up and prepared by himself, in chronological order, a short time before his death, is of very especial interest as indicating the manner in which he was led little by little to undertake those embryological researches which enabled him to fill up enormous gaps in our knowledge, and to render possible, for the first time, a connected account of man’s development.

It is said that a lecture on the development of the glands by Remak, heard while still a student, created in HIS’s mind a deep impression, which later gave rise to his desire for embryological work. From 1865 onwards he published numerous papers dealing with embryological problems, the materials for the earlier of these being for the most part obtained from lower animals. The assiduous collection of human embryos, and a painstaking study of these, enabled him in 1880 to 1885 to publish the Anatomie menschlvlche E7nb7°g/ornevn, a Work rightly regarded as the very foundation of our knowledge of the embryonic history of man. Leading up to, and since the appearance of, this Work, HIS undertook and published an enormous number of researches in connection with the origin of the various organs and tissues of the body, among the most important and remarkable of which are those dealing with the development of the brain, the nerves and the nerve tracts. To HIS belongs the distinction of having first demonstrated that nerve fibres originate as outgrowths of nerve cells, and it is no exaggeration to say that the greater part of our knowledge concerning the embryonic origin of each and every organ of our bodies is due to him. In addition to this vast amount of embryological work, HIS found time for other investigations, including questions of topographical anatomy, and, by the possession of models originated by him, medical schools all over the world bear witness to the advances he made in our knowledge of the form and positions of the viscera. These models, which effected a revolution ‘in the ideas of anatomists as regards the topography of the abdominal and thoracic organs, were first laboriously prepared and described in 1878, since which time, by the introduction of newer and better methods, they have been largely added to.

The medical schools of Europe and America are indebted to HIS not only for published researches, but also he has laid many students of anatomy, from all countries, under a deep debt of gratitude by admitting them to his classes and to his laboratories. When doing this he was wont not only to permit them to freely use his beautiful and unique collection of preparations, but also he would most generously place at their disposal his valuable time and the assistance of his marvellous knowledge. Here one learned to appreciate even more fully the man who wrote the delightful letters in Unsere Korpiform, and to whose labours of love we owe the artistic and wonderful embryological models so well known in our museums. Many students of various nationalities availed themselves of the privilege of attending his summer course of lectures in embryology, and while doing so could not fail to be impressed and rendered enthusiastic by the manner in which he presented and illustrated the details of the subject most dear to him. While he spoke his hands were busy in making those beautiful drawings which so many of his students have year by year attempted to copy.

The enthusiasm for embryological research which has recently arisen in America is undoubtedly to be looked upon, in part at least, as one of the fruits of his generous spirit and unselfish nature.

In these islands Professor HIS had many friends, to whom his death is a personal loss. He came to England on at least four occasions, once visiting Scotland and once Ireland. During these visits, of which he always spoke with pleasure, he took part in meetings at London, Manchester and Dublin, and it was a matter of deep regret to him when he realised that failing health would prevent him presiding at the International Committee of Brain Research recently held in London. It is gratifying to remember that the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, in common with several other of our scientific societies, has had the distinction of counting Professor HIS among its honorary members, and has had the honour of hearing an address from him in 1897 when he attended the Summer Meeting in Dublin.

A. Francis Dixon. (1904)

His Normal Stages

His's Normentafel

Keibel Mall 034a.jpg Keibel Mall 034b.jpg

The embryos of His's Normentafel, from the Normentafel (Normal Table) of Keibel und Elze (Fig. 1, p. 5) X 2.8.

His's numbers are given in parentheses, the individual embryos are lettered, His's numbers being given in parentheses. His estimation designated each embryo, its size, and its age.

Selected References

His1897 fig15.jpg

His W. Anatomie Menschliche Embryonen I - Embryonen des ersten monats (Anatomy of human embryos - Embryos of the first month). (1880) Leipzig.

His W. Anatomie Menschliche Embryonen II - Gestalt und grossentwicklung bis zum schluss des 2 monats (Anatomy of human embryos - Shape and general development to the closing of the 2nd month). (1882) Leipzig.

His W. Ueber das frontale Ende des Gehirnrohres. (1893) Archiv fur Anat. u. Physiol., Anat. Abth., 1893.

His W. Address upon the development of the brain. (1897) Trans. Royal Acad. Medicine Ireland.

15 Days Embryo


Human Embryo (approx 15 Days)

18 to 21 Days Embryo


Human Embryo (approx 18 to 21 Days)

27 to 30 Days Embryo


Human Embryo (approx 27 to 30 Days)

31 to 34 Days Embryo


Human Embryo (approx 31 to 34 Days)

6 Weeks Embryo


Human Embryo (approx 6 Weeks)

8.5 Weeks Embryo


Human Embryo (approx 8.5 Weeks)

Human Embryo Normentafel

German, Normentafel = "standard panel" or "normal table".



  1. His, W. Die anatomische Nomenclatur. Nomina anatomica, Verzeichniss der von der anatomischen Gesellschaft auf ihrer IX. Versammlung in Basel angenommenen Namen (1895) Archiv für Anatomie und Physiologie. Anatomische Abth., Suppl. - Bd., 1895. Internet Archive copy
  2. Mall FP. Wilhelm His - His relation to the institution of learning. (1905) Amer. J Anat. 4(1): 139–161.
  3. Marshall AM. The morphology of the vertebrate olfactory organ. (1879) Quarterly Journal of Microscopic Science. 19: 300–340.
  4. Dixon FA. Professor Wilhelm His (1904) J Anat Physiol. 18: 503–505.

His W. Address upon the development of the brain. (1897) Trans. Royal Acad. Medicine Ireland.

Müller F & O'Rahilly R. (1986). [Wilhelm His and 100 years of human embryology]. Acta Anat (Basel) , 125, 73-5. PMID: 3513474

Glover JC, Elliott KL, Erives A, Chizhikov VV & Fritzsch B. (2018). Wilhelm His' lasting insights into hindbrain and cranial ganglia development and evolution. Dev. Biol. , 444 Suppl 1, S14-S24. PMID: 29447907 DOI.

Glossary Links

Glossary: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Numbers | Symbols | Term Link

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, May 18) Embryology Embryology History - Wilhelm His. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Embryology_History_-_Wilhelm_His

What Links Here?
© Dr Mark Hill 2024, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G