Objectives: One of the most commonly used eponymous terms in neuroscience and gross anatomy is Sylvius. The 2 most recognized uses of this term today are the sylvian fissure for the lateral cerebral sulcus and the sylvian aqueduct for the cerebral aqueduct. There is some controversy surrounding these terms because there were 2 famous anatomists named Sylvius after whom these structures could easily have been named. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief historical review of these 2 scientists and offer an observation on the historical use of the name Sylvius as an anatomical term.
Discussion: Franciscus Sylvius was a popular teacher at the University of Leiden. One of his most famous students, Thomas Bartholinus, published F Sylvius' neuroanatomical work on the lateral cerebral sulcus. Although this structure had been known from antiquity, Bartholinus' description linked F Sylvius' name to the structure. As well, the description of the cerebral aqueduct was also published in other influential anatomy texts as an attempt by students to honor F Sylvius' name, despite the fact that this structure had been described more than a century before. Jacobus Sylvius was a successful but reportedly disliked anatomist at the University of Paris. Although he urged his students to learn from dissection rather than lectures or books, he had an unyielding devotion to Galen's teachings. His most famous student, Vesalius, went on to refute many of Galen's ideas as documented in his later publications. The rift between teacher (J Sylvius) and student (Vesalius) may have resulted in the marginalization of J Sylvius as a figure immortalized in anatomical texts. This may be the probable reason that J Sylvius' name is not associated with anatomical terms.
Conclusion: The lesson from this brief review of the 2 Dr Sylviuses may be that a teacher's historical legacy being preserved as an eponym may have more to do with his or her likability than productivity during his or her lifetime.
This abstract is reproduced with the permission of the publisher; click on the above link for free full text.