Huschke, Emil

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Huschke, Emil

(b. Weimar, Germany, 14 December 1797; d. Jena, Germany, 19 June 1858), anatomy, embryology, physiology.

Huschke was the son of Wilhelm Ernst Christian Huschke, archiater of the duke of Weimar, and the former Christina Göring. He married Emma Rostosky; they had one son and four daughters. One of the daughters married Ernst Haeckel; another, the Berlin publisher Ernst Reimer.

In 1813 Huschke began his studies at the University of Jena, then the center of Naturphilosophie. He was greatly influenced by Lorenz Oken, one of the most enthusiastic promoters of this philosophical trend which was so influential in German science during the first four decades of the nineteenth century.1 In fact, Huschke can be considered one of the most direct followers of Oken’s ideas and one of the links between Naturphilosophie and the biology of the second half of the nineteenth century. On the one hand, he transmitted his philosophical ideas—mainly through his pupil and son-in-law Ernst Haeckel—to the following generation of biologists; and on the other hand, he must be considered one of the German scientists of the mid-nineteenth century who introduced an exact methodology into the life sciences. The high esteem of his contemporaries for his scientific achievements found expression in his election to membership in many scientific academies and learned societies.

Huschke’s brilliant career at the University of Jena began in 1813 with his doctoral thesis—well received by his colleagues—and continued with his inaugural dissertation in 1820. In 1823 he was appointed extraordinary professor; in 1826 he obtained an honorary professorship and became director of the anatomical institute of the university; and in 1838 he was appointed full professor of anatomy and physiology. In this position he lectured on anatomy, embryology, physiology, natural history, zoology, and medical anthropology. He directed the building of a new anatomical institute but died before it was finished.

Central in Huschke’s interest was the question of the origin and development of a particular organ or function. He was especially interested in the origin and transformation of the visceral skeleton during embryogenesis (1820, 1826–1828, 1838). He often discussed these topics at meetings of the Naturfor-scherversammlung; in 1825 he lectured on the changes occurring in the intestines and the gills of frog larvae and, a year later, on the transformation of the branchial skeleton and the accessory blood vessels in the chicken embryo. He paid special attention to the development of the sense organs, particularly of the ear and the eye, discovering that both organs originate in a furrowlike fold of the skin (1824, 1827, 1832, 1844).2 In his study of the genesis of the avian ear (1835), Huschke described the incisorlike folds in the ductus cochlearis which divide the labium vestibulare limbus spiralis into separate sections and which are now named for him.3

After 1845 the central concern of Huschke’s research was the way in which soul and body form a consensus—or, in his own words, “the connection between mental faculties and the body and particularly with specific parts of the brain” —a subject which also had been the central theme of his inaugural dissertation (published in 1823).4 Huschke’s major study devoted to this subject (1854) again relied upon the genetic method. What we need, he said, is a clearer understanding of the formative process through which the various physiognomic phenomena are produced, assuming that the general laws of physiognomy can be visualized by means of genetic anatomy. Consequently, the first two parts of his study are anatomical, containing a wealth of data which Huschke used in order to introduce some new techniques of measuring the superficial parts of the brain and the surface of the bones composing the skull, and of weighing the various parts of the brain. In the third part he formulated his “physiological psychology,” based on the assumption that the brain is an electric apparatus,5 in which the psychic centers are located and that there must exist an identity of structure in the emotions and in muscle dynamics.


1. Huschke participated in the foundation of the Deutsche Burschenschaft and in the Wartburg protests against the German Confederation; he joined enthusiastically the meetings of the Deutsche Naturforscherversammlung; and he published many important contributions in Isis.

2. Huschke could verify this observation with the aid of a thin hair: “Dieses gleitete hierbei in eine Oeffnung, die im dunklen Mittelpunkte des Kreises befindlich war. Nun war ich auf einmal aus aller Berlegenheit, denn ich wusste jetzt, dass die Linsenkapsel ebenso wie das ganze Auge und vorzüglich das Labyrinth des Ohrs entsteht, d.h. dass sie eine Einstülpung des äusseren Hautsystems ist” (quoted after Uschmann, Geschichte der Zoologie... p. 13).

3. Other eponyms are Huschke’s foramen—a perforation near the inner extremity of the tympanal plate: Huschke’s valve—the prominent lower margin of the opening of the lacrimal ducts into the lacrimal sac; Huschke’s cartilage—the vomeronasal cartilage; Huschke’s, canal—the duct formed by the union of the tubercles of the annulus tympanicus; Huschke’s ligament—a fold in the peritoneum at the upper side of the lesser curvature of the stomach.

4. Huschke was not primarily interested in the causal relationship between mind and body, for he starts from the assumption that all matter has a spiritual component and that all spiritual activity is accompanied by material component (Schädel, Hirn und Seele des Menschen,... . p. 161).

5. According to Huschke, both hemispheres form a pair of battery plates, one positive and the other negative. The central coils are connected to the zero point; the front and temporal parts are the poles; the commissural system forms the moist conductors; and the corpus callosum joins the two electric elements. The gyrus fornicatus, the fasciculus unciformis, and the fasciculus longitudinalis represent the connecting wires. The hemispheres are connected to each other by means of the nervous system, forming a closed circuit.


I. Original Works. Huschke’s writings include Quaedam de organorum respiratoriorum in animalium serie metamorphosi generatim scripta et de vesica natatoria piscium quaestiones (Jena, 1818), his diss.; Mimices et physiognomices fragmentum physiologicum (Jena, 1823), his inaugural diss., also in German trans. as “Mimische und physiognomische Studien,” in T. Lessing and W. Rink, eds., Der Körper als Ausdruck, Schriftenreihe zur Gestaltenkunde, II (Dresdenm 1931); Beiträge zur Physiologie und Naturgeschichte, I, Ueber die Sinne (Weimar, 1824); “Ueber die Umbildung des Darmcanals und der Kiemen der Froschquappen,” in Isis (1826), 615–627; “Entwicklung der Glandula thyreoidea,” ibid., p. 613, and (1828), p. 163; Commentatio de pectinis in oculo avium potestate anatomica et physiologica (Jena, 1827); “Ueber die Kiemenbögen und Kiemengefässe beim bebrüteten Hühnchen,” in Isis (1827), pp. 401–403, see also H. Rathke’s comments, ibid. (1828). pp. 80–85; “Ueber die Kiemenbögen am Vogelembryo,” ibid., pp. 160–164; “Ueber die Einstülpung der Linse,” in Zeitschrift für die Ophthalmologie, 3 (1833), 1–29, and 4 (1835), 272–295; “Ueber die erste Entwicklung des Auges und die damit zusammenhängende Cyclopie,” in Archiv für Anatomie und Physiologie, 6 (1832), 1–47; “Ueber die Gehörzähne, einen eigenthümlichen Apparat in der Schnecke des Vogelohrs,” in Archiv für Anatomie, Physiologie und wissenschaftliche Medizin (1835), pp. 335–346; De bursae Fabricii origine (Jena, 1838), his inaugural lecture; Lehre von den Eingeweiden und Sinnesorganen, vol. V of S. T. von Sömmering, ed., Vom Baue des menschlichen Körpers (Leipzig, 1844), which contains a wealth of original observations and is also available in French as Traité de splanchnologie et des organes des sens (Paris, 1845); Schädel, Hirn und Seele des Menschen und der Thiere nach Alter, Geschlecht und Ra¸e (Jena, 1854); and Ueber Craniosclerosis totalis rhachitica und verdickte Schädel überhaupt, nebst neuen Beobachtungen jener Krankheit (Jena, 1858).

II. Secondary Literature. See E. Giese and B. von Hagen, Geschichte der medizinischen Fakultät der Universität Jena (Jena, 1958), pp. 457 ff.; A. Gode von Aesch, Natural Science in German Romanticism (New York, 1941), esp. pp. 224–239; J. Günther, Lebensskizzen der professoren der Universität Jena seit 1558 bis 1858 (Jena, 1858); Nicolaus Rüdinger, in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, XIII, 449–451; and G. Uschmann, Geschichte der Zoologie und der zoologischen Anstalten in Jena 1779–1919 (Jena, 1959), esp. pp. 12–14.

Pieter Smit