Thomas Wharton (anatomist)

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Thomas Wharton
Born(1614-08-31)31 August 1614
Winston, County Durham, County Durham
Died 15 November 1673(1673-11-15) (aged 59)
Residence United Kingdom
Alma mater Pembroke College, Cambridge
Known for Submandibular duct, Wharton's jelly
Scientific career
Fields Anatomy

Thomas Wharton (1614–1673) was an English physician and anatomist best known for his descriptions of the submandibular duct (one of the salivary ducts) and Wharton's jelly of the umbilical cord.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Physician professional who practices medicine

A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simply doctor is a professional who practises medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. Physicians may focus their practice on certain disease categories, types of patients and methods of treatment—known as specialities—or they may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing and comprehensive medical care to individuals, families, and communities—known as general practice. Medical practice properly requires both a detailed knowledge of the academic disciplines underlying diseases and their treatment—the science of medicine—and also a decent competence in its applied practice—the art or craft of medicine.

Anatomy The study of the structure of organisms and their parts

Anatomy is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts. Anatomy is a branch of natural science which deals with the structural organization of living things. It is an old science, having its beginnings in prehistoric times. Anatomy is inherently tied to developmental biology, embryology, comparative anatomy, evolutionary biology, and phylogeny, as these are the processes by which anatomy is generated over immediate (embryology) and long (evolution) timescales. Anatomy and physiology, which study (respectively) the structure and function of organisms and their parts, make a natural pair of related disciplines, and they are often studied together. Human anatomy is one of the essential basic sciences that are applied in medicine.



He was the only son of John Wharton (d. 10 June 1629) by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Roger Hodson (d. 10 March 1646) of Fountains Abbey, and was born at Winston-on-Tees, county Durham, on 31 August 1614. He was admitted at Pembroke College, Cambridge, on 4 July 1638, and matriculated two days later. [1] He afterwards migrated to Trinity College, Oxford, where he acted for some time as tutor to John Scrope, natural son of Emanuel Scrope, 1st Earl of Sunderland.

Fountains Abbey former monastery in England

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. It is located approximately 3 miles south-west of Ripon in North Yorkshire, near to the village of Aldfield. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for 407 years becoming one of the wealthiest monasteries in England until its dissolution in 1539 under the order of Henry VIII.

County Durham County of England

County Durham is a county in North East England. The county town is Durham, a cathedral city. The largest settlement is Darlington, closely followed by Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees. It borders Tyne and Wear to the north east, Northumberland to the north, Cumbria to the west and North Yorkshire to the south. The county's historic boundaries stretch between the rivers Tyne and Tees, thus including places such as Gateshead, Jarrow, South Shields and Sunderland.

Pembroke College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college is the third-oldest college of the university and has over seven hundred students and fellows. Physically, it is one of the university's larger colleges, with buildings from almost every century since its founding, as well as extensive gardens. Its members are termed "Valencians".

In 1642 he went to Bolton, where he remained three years studying; and then, having decided upon his future profession, removed to London and studied medicine under John Bathurst In 1646 he returned to Oxford, and was created M.D. on 7 May 1647. He was entered as a candidate of the College of Physicians on 25 January 1648, chosen fellow on 23 December 1650, incorporated at Cambridge on his doctor's degree in 1652, and held the post of censor of the Royal College of Physicians in 1658, 1661, 1666, 1667, 1668, and 1673.

Bolton town in Greater Manchester, in the North West of England

Bolton is a town in Greater Manchester in North West England. A former mill town, Bolton has been a production centre for textiles since Flemish weavers settled in the area in the 14th century, introducing a wool and cotton-weaving tradition. The urbanisation and development of the town largely coincided with the introduction of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. Bolton was a 19th-century boomtown, and at its zenith in 1929 its 216 cotton mills and 26 bleaching and dyeing works made it one of the largest and most productive centres of cotton spinning in the world. The British cotton industry declined sharply after the First World War, and by the 1980s cotton manufacture had virtually ceased in Bolton.

John Bathurst English doctor

John Bathurst (1607–1659) was an English physician. He attended Oliver Cromwell, and was twice Member of Parliament.

Royal College of Physicians professional body of doctors of general medicine and its subspecialties in the UK

The Royal College of Physicians is a British professional body dedicated to improving the practice of medicine, chiefly through the accreditation of physicians by examination. Founded in 1518, it set the first international standard in the classification of diseases, and its library contains medical texts of great historical interest.

He obtained the appointment of physician to St. Thomas's Hospital on 20 November 1659, and retained it till his death in 1673. Wharton was one of the very few physicians who remained at his post in London during the whole of the outbreak of the plague of 1665. His services were recognised by a promise of the first vacant appointment of physician in ordinary to the king. When, however, a vacancy occurred and he applied for the fulfilment of the promise, he was put off with a grant of honourable augmentation to his paternal arms, for which he had to pay Sir William Dugdale.

Wharton died at his house in Aldersgate Street on 15 November 1673, and was buried on the 20th in the church of St. Michael Bassishaw in Basinghall Street. He married Jane, daughter of William Ashbridge of London, by whom he had three sons: Thomas, father of George Wharton (both physicians; George married Anna Maria, daughter of William Petty), Charles, and William; the last two died young. His wife predeceased him on 20 July 1669, and was buried at St. Michael Bassishaw on the 23rd.

William Petty English scientist, philosopher, statistician and economist

Sir William Petty FRS was an English economist, physician, scientist and philosopher. He first became prominent serving Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth in Ireland. He developed efficient methods to survey the land that was to be confiscated and given to Cromwell's soldiers. He also remained a significant figure under King Charles II and King James II, as did many others who had served Cromwell.


Wharton described the glands more accurately than had previously been done, and made researches into their nature and use, relying on dissection and experiment. He was the discoverer of the duct of the sub-mandibulary gland for the conveyance of the saliva into the mouth, which bears his name. He made a special study of the minute anatomy of the pancreas. William Oughtred, in the epistle to his Clavis Mathematicae (London, 1648), speaks of Wharton's proficiency; and Izaak Walton, in his Compleat Angler , expresses indebtedness to Wharton, and calls him a friend.

Pancreas glandular organ in the digestive system and endocrine system of vertebrates

The pancreas is an organ of the digestive system and endocrine system of vertebrates. In humans, it is located in the abdomen behind the stomach.

William Oughtred English mathematician and Anglican minister

William Oughtred was an English mathematician and Anglican clergyman. After John Napier invented logarithms and Edmund Gunter created the logarithmic scales upon which slide rules are based, Oughtred was the first to use two such scales sliding by one another to perform direct multiplication and division. He is credited with inventing the slide rule in about 1622. He also introduced the "×" symbol for multiplication and the abbreviations "sin" and "cos" for the sine and cosine functions.

Izaak Walton English author and biographer

Izaak Walton was an English writer. Best known as the author of The Compleat Angler, he also wrote a number of short biographies that have been collected under the title of Walton's Lives.

He wrote four English verses under a fanciful engraving prefixed to a translation by Elias Ashmole, entitled Arcanum, or the Grand Secret of Hermetic Philosophy, and published in his Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (London, 1652). Wharton and Bathurst had visited Arthur Dee for Ashmole (who translated his Fasciculus Chemicus , but never met him). [2] Ashmole and Wharton worked together on the catalogue of the Musaeum Tradescantianum, printed in 1650, stemming from a visit they paid John Tradescant the younger in 1650. [3] [4] Their friendship was troubled, but reconciliation took place before Wharton's death.

Wharton published Adenographia; sive glandularum totius corporis descriptio, London, 1656 (plates); Amsterdam, 1659; Oberwesel, 1664, 1671,1675; Düsseldorf, 1730. Large portions of the work were printed in Le Clerc and Mangot's Bibliotheca Anatomica, Geneva, 1699. Hieronymus Barbatus in his Dissertatio Elegantissima de Sanguine, Paris, 1667, makes use of Wharton's work.


  1. A slightly different matriculation date is given in "Wharton, Thomas (WHRN637T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. Arthur Dee, Lyndy Abraham (editor), Elias Ashmole (translator), Fasciculus Chemicus (1997), p. lxvi.
  3. "Musaeum Tradescantianum". Ashmolean Museum: British Archaeology Collections.
  4. "The Collectors - Tradescant". Ashmolean Museum: British Archaeology Collections.

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