On This Day
1521 – The Diet of Worms begins, lasting until May 25.
The Diet of Worms 1521 (German: Reichstag zu Worms [ˈʁaɪçstaːk tsuː ˈvɔɐms]) was an imperial diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire called on by King Charles V. It was held at the Heylshof Garden in Worms, then an Imperial Free City of the Empire. An imperial diet was a formal deliberative assembly of the whole Empire. This one is most memorable for the Edict of Worms (Wormser Edikt), which addressed Martin Luther and the effects of the Protestant Reformation. It was conducted from 28 January to 25 May 1521, with the Emperor Charles V presiding.
Other imperial diets took place at Worms in the years 829, 926, 1076, 1122, 1495, and 1545, but unless plainly qualified, the term “Diet of Worms” usually refers to the assembly of 1521.
Born On This Day
1755 – Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring, Polish-German physician, anthropologist, and paleontologist (d. 1830)
Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring (28 January 1755 – 2 March 1830) was a German physician, anatomist, anthropologist, paleontologist and inventor. Sömmerring discovered the macula in the retina of the human eye. His investigations on the brain and the nervous system, on the sensory organs, on the embryo and its malformations, on the structure of the lungs, etc., made him one of the most important German anatomists.
Sömmerring was born in Thorn (Toruń), Royal Prussia (a fief of the Crown of Poland) as the ninth child of the physician Johann Thomas Sömmerring. In 1774 he completed his education in Thorn and began to study medicine at the University of Göttingen. He visited Petrus Camper lecturing at the University in Franeker. He became a professor of anatomy at the Collegium Carolinum (housed in the Ottoneum, now a Natural History Museum) in Kassel and, beginning in 1784, at the University of Mainz. There he was for five years the dean of the medical faculty. Due to the fact that Mainz became part of the French Republic under the French Directory, Sömmerring opened up a practice in Frankfurt in 1795. As one of his many important enterprises, Sömmerring introduced against many resistances the vaccination against smallpox and became one of the first members of the Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft and was nominated as counselor. He received offers of employment by the University of Jena and the University of St. Petersburg, but accepted in 1804 an invitation from the Academy of Science of Bavaria, in Munich. In this city, he became counselor to the court and was led into the Bavarian nobility.
When Sömmerring was 23 years old he described the organization of the cranial nerves as part of this doctoral work: its study is still valid today. He published many writings in the fields of medicine, anatomy and neuroanatomy, anthropology, paleontology, astronomy and philosophy. Among other things he wrote about fossil crocodiles and in 1812 he described Ornithocephalus antiquus now known as Pterodactylus. He was also the first to accurately draw a representation of the female skeleton structure.
In addition, Sömmerring was a very creative inventor, having designed a telescope for astronomical observations and an electrical telegraph in 1809. He worked on the refinement of wines, sunspots and many diverse other things. In 1811 he developed the first telegraphic system in Bavaria, which is housed today in the German Museum of Science in Munich. In 1823, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Sömmering was married to Margarethe Elizabeth Grunelius (deceased 1802), and had a son, Dietmar William, and a daughter, Susanne Katharina. Due to bad weather, Sömmering left Munich in 1820 and returned to Frankfurt, where he died in 1830. He is buried at the city’s main cemetery.
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