[The intermaxillary bone and Goethe's Mephistopheles].Laryngol Rhinol Otol (Stuttg). 1982 Oct; 61(10):552-6.LR
The greatest anatomist of the second half of the 18th century was considered to be Petrus Camper from Holland. His theory - widespread as a dogma - stated that the anatomical difference between man and animal was the missing intermaxillary bone in man, this being the distinguishing feature between man and monkey. Against this theory Goethe set hs own reflections and observations, and on March 27th 1784 he found, by "reflection and coincidence", the intermaxillary bone in the human skull. In order to present his exciting discovery to the famous anatomist, he wanted to use as an intermediary his good friend Johann Heinrich Merck from Darmstadt who was in contact with Petrus Camper. But Merck delayed the requested forwarding of the manuscript, belittled Goethe and the significance of his treatise considerably in an accompanying letter, did not forward Camper's replies, and in the meantime even took advantage of Goethe's treatise for his own publications. It as only late that Goethe became aware of the scheming and mean behaviour of his "good friend", and he felt disappointed and betrayed by Merck. In Goethe's dramatic poem "Faust", Dr. Faust is confronted with the figure of Mephistopheles--the spirit who always plans evil and always denies. There is enough evidence to believe that the person of J. H. Merck can be recognized in this figure, and that Goethe's discovery of the human intermaxillary bone had its part in creating the figure of Mephistopheles as we know it today.