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Keywords:

  • cranial nerve;
  • history;
  • naming

The giants of medicine and anatomy have each left their mark on the history of the cranial nerves, and much of the history of anatomic study can be viewed through the lens of how the cranial nerves were identified and named. A comprehensive literature review on the classification of the cranial names was performed. The identification of the cranial nerves began with Galen in the 2nd century AD and evolved up through the mid-20th century. In 1778, Samuel Sömmerring, a German anatomist, classified the 12 cranial nerves as we recognize them today. This review expands on the excellent investigations of Flamm, Shaw, and Simon et al., with discussion of the historical identification as well as the process of naming the human cranial nerves. Clin. Anat. 27:14–19, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.