Huber, Johann Jacob

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Huber, Johann Jacob

(b. Basel, Switzerland, 11 September 1707; d. Kassel, Germany, 6 July 1778)

anatomy, botany.

Huber’s, main contributions to science were his anatomical studies. He gave the first detailed and accurate description of the spinal cord (De medulla spinali [Göttingen, 1741]); but he dealt mainly with the external appearances, which he illustrated accurately, and with the accessory nerve of Willis (Clarke and O’Malley, 1968). His account of the internal features of the cord did not advance beyond those already published. To the first fascicle of Albrecht von Haller’s famous Icones anatomicae (Göttingen, 1743–1755), Huber contributed descriptions of the uterus and spinal cord. He also studied the spinal roots and nerves, particularly the intercostal nerves and the lower cranial nerves.

As a botanist, he was an expert on the flora of the central and eastern high Alps and contributed to Haller’s Historia stirpium indigenarum Helvetiae inchoata (Bern, 1768, 2 vols.).

Huber came from an upper-class ruling family of Basel, his father, Johann, being an apothecary. He read philosophy in Basel and then studied under the great physiologist Haller in Bern and under H. A. Nicolai, the anatomist, in Strasbourg. He received his medical degree from the University of Basel in 1733 and three years later went to Göttingen where, owing to Haller’s influence, he was appointed prosector and, in 1739, professor extraordinary.

Again because of Haller’s support, he was called in 1742 to the chair of anatomy and surgery in the Collegium Carolinum in Kassel. In 1748 he was appointed personal physician and privy councillor to the grand duke of Hesse. He retained this appointment and his academic post until his death. In later years Huber felt considerable enmity towards his mentor Haller, believing that he had unjustly appropriated some of his own work.

Huber was a fellow of the Royal Society of London and a member of other scientific bodies in Europe.


I. Original Works. Panckoucke (1822) lists twenty-two separate works by Huber. Adelung (1836) adds to these a group of papers published in the Acta Physico-Medica Academicae Caesareae Leopoldino-Carolonae Naturae Curiosorum (Nuremberg, 1727–1744), mainly on fetal and muscle anatomy, and one in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society on anatomical anomalies. Huber’s most outstanding publication was De medulla spinali speciatim de nervis ab ea provenientibus commentatiocum adjunctis iconibus (Göttingen, 1741). The rest were of secondary importance.

II. Secondary Literature. See Edwin Clarke and C. D. O’Malley, The Human Brain and Spinal Cord (Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1968), pp. 266–268, for a brief biographical sketch and extracts from Huber’s book of 1741 on the spinal cord.

Each of the following biographical pieces is accompanied by a bibliography: Adelung (no initials), “Huber (Jean-Jacques),” in Dezeimeris, ed., Dictionnaire historique de la médecine ancienne et moderne, III (Paris, 1836), 244–246; C. L. F. Panckoucke, ed., Dictionnaire des sciences médicales. Biographie médicale, V (Paris, 1822) 305–306; J. M. Gesner, in F. Börner, ed., Nachrichten von den vornehmsten Lebensumständen und Schriften jetztlebender berühmter Aerzte und Naturforscher in und um Deutschland, I (Wolfenbüttel, 1749), 593–620.

Edwin Clarke