Johann Christian Rosenmüller

25-MAY-1771 - 29-FEB-1820

Johann Christian Rosenmüller gezeichnet 1805 von Johann Friedrich Schröter (*1770-✝1836). Public Domain.
Ursus spelaeus Rosenmüller, 1794. Public Domain.

Johann Christian Rosenmüller was a German surgeon and anatomist. He is important for speleology because he devoted himself to scientific research while studying at the University of Erlangen between 1792 and 1794, visiting and describing the caves of Franconian Switzerland. The Rosenmüller Cave in Muggendorf was named after him.

Rosenmüller: Johann Christian R., physician and famous anatomist, was born as the son of the pulpit orator and theological writer Johann Georg R. at Heßberg near Hildburghausen on 25 May 1771. His father gave him an extremely careful education. He received his first lessons in the schools of Königsberg (in Franconia) and Erfurt and already distinguished himself as a boy by his great skill in drawing. After a short stay in Giessen, he went to the University of Leipzig in 1786, where he obtained the degree of Magister artium in 1792. He then began to study medicine in Erlangen and, during his two-year stay there, devoted himself to scientific research with particular zeal. While still a student, he discovered the Muggendorf Cave, which still bears his name today, and which he described in a small treatise with good drawings: "Abbildungen und Beschreibungen merkwürdiger Höhlen in Muggendorf im Bayreuthischen Oberlande" (Erlangen 1796).

After writing a dissertation in Leipzig in 1794 with comparative anatomical content, titled: "Quaedam de ossibus fossilibus animalis cujusdam, historiam ejus et cognitionem accuratiorem illustrantia" (German translation by the author himself, Leipzig 1795), he was appointed prosector at the anatomical theatre there, but did not actually receive his doctorate until 1797. He then settled as a general practitioner in Leipzig, became garrison physician in 1799 and received the extraordinary professorship of anatomy and surgery in 1802. After the death of Hebenstreit (1804), he succeeded him as full professor of the aforementioned subjects, at the same time with the dignity of assessor of the medical faculty. His scientific and practical work gradually gained greater and greater recognition; he was appointed Hofrath and university physicist and awarded all kinds of other honours. However, he resigned from his position as university physicist as early as 1809. In the last years of his life he suffered a lot from asthmatic complaints (angina pectoris) and died suddenly from one of these attacks in the night from 28 to 29 February 1820 in his 49th year.

R. was an extraordinarily skilful anatomist. He was fond of this discipline and his considerable talent in drawing was of great benefit to him. His literary works are therefore mostly in this field. The best known is his "Handbuch der Anatomie nach Leber's Umriß der Zergliederungskunst zum Gebrauche für Vorlesungen" (Leipzig 1808; 4th-6th edition published by E. H. Weber 1828-40). Furthermore, the following should be mentioned among his larger independently published writings "Compendium anatomiae in usum lectionum" (Ebendas. 1815): "Chirurgisch-anatomische Abbildungen für Aerzte und Wundärzte" (also with Latin title, Weimar 1805-12, 3 parts); the monographic description of the "Nervus obturatorius" (Leipzig 1814), as well as "Beitrag zur physicalischen Geschichte der Erde" Ebdas. Th. 1, 1799; Th. 2, 1805). He also published "Monro's Abbildungen und Beschreibungen der Schleimsäcke des menschlichen Körpers ausgearbeitet und vermehrt" (Latin and German with engravings, ibid. 1800); together with J. C. A. Heinroth "John Bell's Zergliederung des menschlichen Körpers, nach dem Englischen durchaus umgearbeitet" (with engravings, ibid. 1806-7). Other writings are cited in the source mentioned below. Rosenmüller's name is immortalised in the Rosenmüller's pit, familiar to every medic and incidentally already mentioned by Haller, a blind and gland-rich bay formed by the mucous membrane between the pharyngeal opening of the Eustachian tube and the posterior wall of the pharynx, directed outwards and upwards.

Cf. Biogr. Lexikon u. s. w., edited by A. Hirsch.

Julius Pagel (1889): Rosenmüller: Johann Christian R. In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, herausgegeben von der Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, vol. 29 (1889), pp. 221-222,


25-MAY-1771 born in Heßberg, Thuringia.
1786 University of Leipzig.
1792 Achieves the degree of Magister Artium of philosophy.
1792 Studies medicine at the University of Erlangen.
1794 Dissertation in Leipzig.
1797 Promoted to doctor of medicine in 1797.
1797 settles as a general practitioner in Leipzig.
1802 Professorship in anatomy and surgery.
29-FEB-1820 Died in Leipzig.