Was Cheselden's One-Century-Long Otological Writings Concordant With His Time?

Otol Neurotol. 2015 Aug;36(7):1290-4. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000000693.


William Cheselden's famous anatomical treatise spanned the entire 18th century period with its 15 editions. The aim of this study is to analyze the otological knowledge described in all these editions, to identify key 18th century otological advancements, and to study their concordance.In the first edition (1713), Cheselden notably mentioned four middle ear ossicles: malleus, incus, fourth ossicle, and stapes; four auditory muscles: "external tympani," "external oblique," tensor tympani, and stapedial; and a small opening in the tympanic membrane. In subsequent editions, minimal changes appeared, except for nomenclature changes and the proposal of an artificial opening of the tympanic membrane. Virtually no changes were performed up to the last edition (1806). All Cheselden's Editions confirm the uncertain presence of a fourth ossicle, the disputable presence of a tympanic membrane opening and the "usual" accepted presence of three muscles to the malleus. Key otologic advancements, not found in any of Cheselden's writings, were catherization of the Eustachian tube, presence of fluid in the inner ear, and the surgical opening of the mastoid.This study demonstrates that Cheselden, and his subsequent editors, were unaware of some important otologic developments that revolutionized the field of otology. Description of key advancements lacking in his treatise includes catherization of the Eustachian tube, the presence of fluid in the inner ear, and the surgical opening of the mastoid. Nevertheless, Cheselden is first in proposing to artificially open the tympanic membrane in humans.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Ear Ossicles / anatomy & histology
  • Ear, Inner / anatomy & histology*
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Otolaryngology / history*
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Tympanic Membrane / surgery

Personal name as subject

  • William Cheselden