The historical evolution of the understanding of the submandibular and sublingual salivary glands

Daniel D. Lydiatt, Gregory S. Bucher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The discovery of the major salivary glands was primarily a story of the establishment of the glands major excretory ducts. Occurring during the Renaissance: religious, political, and philosophical considerations played a role in defining the structure's function. We describe the history and background of these political, religious, and philosophical factors. Next, we present a translation of the original texts, describing the establishment of the submandibular and sublingual salivary glands. We place these translations into historical context and comment on their naming propriety. Initially we translate the works of the 15th century anatomists. Next, we look at the discovery and description of the submandibular gland's duct by Thomas Wharton (1614-1673) in his landmark book, Adenographia sive glandularum totius corporis descriptio (Adenographia or the description of the glands of the entire body) (1656). Next, the somewhat unexpected discovery of the duct of the parotid gland by Nicholas Stenson (1638-1686) and his publication, De glandulis oris et novis earundum vasis (On the glands of the mouth and their new ducts) (1661), done primarily for his discussion of the submandibular and sublingual gland anatomy. Finally we outline the description and discussion by Caspar Bartholin (1655-1738), in De ductu salivali, hactenus non descripto observatio anatomica (Anatomical observation of a salivary duct not hitherto described) (1685) of the origin of the complex drainage system of the sublingual gland. The honor of naming these glands rested with the discoverer of their ducts. All original works were published in Latin, and we have translated these texts to more fully understand the author's perspectives and historical context for a more interesting and complete story.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-11
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • salivary gland
  • sublingual gland
  • submandibular gland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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