Cranial nerve nomenclature: historical vignette

Angela Li Ching Ng, Jeffrey V. Rosenfeld, Antonio Di Ieva*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    The nomenclature of the 12 cranial nerves as we know it today was developed over a series of anatomic findings by some of history's most famous anatomists from Galen to Von Soemmerring. In this paper, we review the literature to present an overview of the remarkable historical journey that brought our forefathers to trace the pathway of individual cranial nerves from origin to destination. In particular, we discuss the evolution of the naming of the cranial nerves and highlight relevant eponymous descriptions. We also include some poignant illustrations of cranial nerves by ancient anatomists that set the scene to their discoveries. In reviewing this legacy, we summarize the important product of centuries of discoveries and investigations and the limitations of cranial nerve classification systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)299-307
    Number of pages9
    JournalWorld Neurosurgery
    Early online date14 May 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


    • Cranial nerves
    • Eponyms
    • History of medicine
    • Nomenclature


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