Thomas Willis

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Thomas Willis
Thomas Willis ODNB.jpg
Willis in 1667
Born27 January 1621
Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire
Died11 November 1675 (aged 54)
London
ResidenceUnited Kingdom
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Known for Circle of Willis
Spouse(s) Mary Fell
Scientific career
Fields Anatomy
Neurology
Psychiatry

Thomas Willis (27 January 1621 – 11 November 1675) was an English doctor who played an important part in the history of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry. [1] He was a founding member of the Royal Society.

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.

Neurology Medical specialty dealing with disorders of the nervous system

Neurology is a branch of medicine dealing with disorders of the nervous system. Neurology deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of conditions and disease involving the central and peripheral nervous systems, including their coverings, blood vessels, and all effector tissue, such as muscle. Neurological practice relies heavily on the field of neuroscience, the scientific study of the nervous system.

Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to diagnosing, preventing, and treating mental disorders. These include various maladaptations related to mood, behavior, cognition, and perceptions. See glossary of psychiatry.

Contents

Life

Willis was born on his parents' farm in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, where his father held the stewardship of the Manor. He was a kinsman of the Willys baronets of Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire. He graduated M.A. from Christ Church, Oxford in 1642. [2] [3] In the Civil War years he was a royalist, dispossessed of the family farm at North Hinksey by Parliamentary forces. [4] In the 1640s Willis was one of the royal physicians to Charles I of England. [5] Less grandly, once qualified B. Med. in 1646, he began as an active physician by regularly attending the market at Abingdon. [4]

Great Bedwyn Village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England

Great Bedwyn is a village and civil parish in east Wiltshire, England. The village is on the River Dun about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) southwest of Hungerford, 14 miles (23 km) southeast of Swindon and 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of Marlborough.

There have been two baronetcies granted to the Willyses of Fen Ditton, both in the Baronetage of England. The Willys Baronetcy, of Fen Ditton in Cambridgeshire, was first created in the Baronetage of England on 15 December 1641 for Thomas Willys, son and heir of Richard Willys, of Fen Ditton and Horningsey, Cambridgeshire, by Jane, daughter and heir of William Henmarsh, of Balls, in Ware, Hertfordshire. Richard's brother, Thomas was Clerk of the Crown in Chancery.

Fen Ditton village on the northeast edge of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire, England

Fen Ditton is a village on the northeast edge of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire, England. The parish covers an area of 5.99 square kilometres (2 sq mi).

He maintained an Anglican position; an Anglican congregation met at his lodgings in the 1650s, including John Fell, John Dolben, and Richard Allestree. [4] [6] Fell's father Samuel Fell had been expelled as Dean of Christ Church, in 1647; Willis married Samuel Fell's daughter Mary, [7] and brother-in-law John Fell would later be his biographer. He employed Robert Hooke as an assistant, in the period 1656-8; this probably was another Fell family connection, since Samuel Fell knew Hooke's father in Freshwater, Isle of Wight. [8] [9]

John Dolben Archbishop of York

John Dolben (1625–1686) was an English priest and Church of England bishop and archbishop.

Richard Allestree English Royalist churchman and Provost of Eton College

Richard Allestree or Allestry was an English Royalist churchman and provost of Eton College from 1665.

Samuel Fell clergyman and academic administrator

Samuel Fell D.D. was an English academic and clergyman, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford during the First English Civil War.

One of several Oxford cliques of those interested in science grew up around Willis and Christ Church. Besides Hooke, others in the group were Nathaniel Hodges, John Locke, Richard Lower, Henry Stubbe and John Ward. [10] (Locke went on to study with Thomas Sydenham, who would become Willis's leading rival, and who both politically and medically held some incompatible views. [11] ) In the broader Oxford scene, he was a colleague in the "Oxford club" of experimentalists with Ralph Bathurst, Robert Boyle, William Petty, John Wilkins and Christopher Wren. [12] Willis was on close terms with Wren's sister Susan Holder, skilled in the healing of wounds. [13]

Nathaniel Hodges M.D. (1629–1688) was an English physician, known for his work during the Great Plague of London and his written account Loimologia of it.

John Locke English philosopher and physician

John Locke was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.

Richard Lower (physician) English physician

Richard Lower was an English physician who heavily influenced the development of medical science. He is most remembered for his works on transfusion and the function of the cardiopulmonary system.

Willis lived on Merton Street, Oxford, from 1657 to 1667. [14] In 1656 and 1659 he published two significant medical works, De Fermentatione and De Febribus. These were followed by the 1664 volume on the brain, which was a record of collaborative experimental work. From 1660 until his death, he was Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy at Oxford. At the time of the formation of the Royal Society of London, he was on the 1660 list of priority candidates, and became a Fellow in 1661. [15] Henry Stubbe became a polemical opponent of the Society, and used his knowledge of Willis's earlier work before 1660 to belittle some of the claims made by its proponents. [16]

Merton Street

Merton Street is a historic and picturesque cobbled street in central Oxford, England. It joins the High Street at its northeastern end, between the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art and the Eastgate Hotel at the historic east gate of the city. It then runs east-west, parallel and to the south of the High Street for most of its length.

The Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy is the name of a chair at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford.

University of Oxford university in Oxford, United Kingdom

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation after the University of Bologna. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two 'ancient universities' are frequently jointly called 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Willis later worked as a physician in Westminster, London, this coming about after he treated Gilbert Sheldon in 1666. [3] He had a successful medical practice, in which he applied both his understanding of anatomy and known remedies, attempting to integrate the two; he mixed both iatrochemical and mechanical views. [17] [18] According to Noga Arikha

Westminster Area of central London, within the City of Westminster

Westminster is a government district and former capital of the Kingdom of England in Central London within the City of Westminster, part of the West End, on the north bank of the River Thames. Westminster's concentration of visitor attractions and historic landmarks, one of the highest in London, includes the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Gilbert Sheldon Archbishop of Canterbury; Bishop of London

Gilbert Sheldon was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1663 until his death.

Among his patients was the philosopher Anne Conway, with whom he had intimate relations, but although he was consulted, Willis failed to relieve her headaches. [20]

Willis is mentioned in John Aubrey's Brief Lives ; their families became linked generations later through the marriage of Aubrey's distant cousin Sir John Aubrey, 6th Baronet of Llantrithyd to Martha Catherine Carter, the grand-niece of Sir William Willys, 6th Baronet of Fen Ditton.

Research activity

Frontispiece to Thomas Willis's 1663 book Diatribae duae medico-philosophicae - quarum prior agit de fermentatione, engraved and published by Gerbrandus Schagen in Amsterdam Thomas Willis - Diatribae duae medico-philosophicae - quarum prior agit de fermentatione 4430011502 0cec24863c o.jpg
Frontispiece to Thomas Willis's 1663 book Diatribae duae medico-philosophicae – quarum prior agit de fermentatione, engraved and published by Gerbrandus Schagen in Amsterdam

Willis was a pioneer in research into the anatomy of the brain, nervous system and muscles. His most notable discovery was the "Circle of Willis", a circle of arteries on the base of the brain.

Willis's anatomy of the brain and nerves, as described in his Cerebri anatome of 1664, is minute and elaborate. This work coined the term neurology , and was not the result of his own personal and unaided exertions; he acknowledged his debt to Sir Christopher Wren, who provided drawings, Thomas Millington, and his fellow anatomist Richard Lower. It abounds in new information, and presents an enormous contrast with the vaguer efforts of his predecessors.

In 1667 Willis published Pathologicae cerebri, et nervosi generis specimen, an important work on the pathology and neurophysiology of the brain. In it he developed a new theory of the cause of epilepsy and other convulsive diseases, and contributed to the development of psychiatry. In 1672 he published the earliest English work on medical psychology, Two Discourses concerning the Soul of Brutes, which is that of the Vital and Sensitive of Man. [21] Willis could be seen as an early pioneer of the mind-brain supervenience claim prominent in present day neuropsychiatry and philosophy of mind. Unfortunately, his enlightenment did not improve his treatment of patients, advocating in some cases to hit the patient over the head with sticks. [22]

Willis was the first to number the cranial nerves in the order in which they are now usually enumerated by anatomists. He noted the parallel lines of the mesolobe (corpus callosum), afterwards minutely described by Félix Vicq-d'Azyr. He seems to have recognised the communication of the convoluted surface of the brain and that between the lateral cavities beneath the fornix. He described the corpora striata and optic thalami; the four orbicular eminences, with the bridge, which he first named annular protuberance; and the white mammillary eminences, behind the infundibulum. In the cerebellum he remarks the arborescent arrangement of the white and grey matter and gives a good account of the internal carotids and the communications which they make with the branches of the basilar artery.

Willis replaced Nemesius's doctrine. He deduced that the ventricles contained cerebrospinal fluid which collected waste products from effluents. Willis recognized the cortex as the substrate of cognition and claimed that the gyrencephalia was related to a progressive increase in the complexity of cognition. In his functional scheme, the origin of voluntary movements was placed at the cerebral cortex while involuntary movements came from the cerebellum. [23] .

He coined the term mellitus in diabetes mellitus. An old name for the condition is "Willis's disease". [24] He observed what had been known for many centuries elsewhere, that the urine is sweet in patients (glycosuria). [25] His observations on diabetes formed a chapter of Pharmaceutice rationalis (1674). [26] Further research came from Johann Conrad Brunner, who had met Willis in London. [27]

Influence

Willis's work gained currency in France through the writings of Daniel Duncan. The philosopher Richard Cumberland quickly applied the findings on brain anatomy to argue a case against Thomas Hobbes's view of the primacy of the passions. Willis's books, including Cerebri anatome and selected works in 5 volumes (1664) are listed as once in the library of Sir Thomas Browne. His son Edward Browne (physician), who was President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1704-1707 also owned books by Willis. [28]

Family

By his wife, Mary Fell, Willis had five daughters and four sons, of whom four children survived early childhood. After Mary's death in 1670, he married the widow Elizabeth Calley, daughter of Matthew Nicholas, in 1672: there were no children of this marriage. [2]

Fenny Stratford church

Browne Willis, the antiquary, was son of Thomas Willis (1658–1699), the eldest son of Thomas and Mary. Between 1724 and 1730, Browne Willis rebuilt St. Martin's Church on the site of the old Chantry Chapel of St. Margaret and St. Catherine at Fenny Stratford. He erected the church as a memorial to his grandfather Willis who lived in St. Martin's Lane in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London and who died on St. Martin's Day, 11 November 1675.

Works

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References

  1. Moore, Norman (1900). "Willis, Thomas (1621-1675)"  . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography . 62. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 25–26.
  2. 1 2 Martenson, Robert L. (October 2007) [2004]. "Willis, Thomas (1621–1675)]". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29587.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. 1 2 Willis, Thomas. The Galileo Project. Galileo.rice.edu. Retrieved on 17 July 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 Symonds, Charles (1960). "Thomas Willis, F.R.S. (1621–1675)". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 15: 91–97. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1960.0008. JSTOR   531028.
  5. Lisa Jardine, On a Grander Scale, HarperCollins, 2004, ISBN   006095910X, p. 54.
  6. Nicholas Tyacke, The History of the University of Oxford: Volume IV: Seventeenth-Century Oxford (1984), p. 804.
  7. Allan Chapman, England's Leonardo: Robert Hooke and the Seventeenth-century Scientific Revolution, Institute of Physics, 2005, ISBN   0750309873, p. 20.
  8. Restoration man. Oxford Today, Vol. 15, No. 3 (2003).
  9. Lisa Jardine, The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, HarperCollins, 2003, p. 66.
  10. Hilde de Ridder-Symoens, Walter Rüegg, A History of the University in Europe (1996), p. 547.
  11. Wayne Glausser, Locke and Blake: A Conversation Across the Eighteenth Century, University Press of Florida, 1998, ISBN   0813015707, p. 49.
  12. Andrew Pyle (editor), The Dictionary of Seventeenth Century British Philosophers (2000), Thoemmes Press (two volumes), article Willis, Thomas, p. 896. ISBN   1855067048.
  13. BIOGRAPHIES: Susan Holder (1627-–1688). She-philosopher.com (27 September 2009). Retrieved on 17 July 2012.
  14. Molnár, Zoltán (2004). "Timeline: Thomas Willis (1621–1675), the founder of clinical neuroscience". Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 5 (4): 329–35. doi:10.1038/nrn1369. PMID   15034557.
  15. Margery Purvey, The Royal Society: Concept and Creation, MIT Press, 1967, pp. 138–9.
  16. Jon Parkin, Science, Religion and Politics in Restoration England (1999), p. 134 ISBN   0861932412.
  17. Andrew Wear, Knowledge and Practice in English Medicine, 1550–1680, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN   0521558271, p. 446.
  18. Allen G. Debus, Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry: Papers from Ambix, Jeremy Mills Publishing, 2004, ISBN   0954648412, p. 364.
  19. Arikha, Noga (2006). "Form and Function in the Early Enlightenment". Perspectives on Science. 14 (2): 13. doi:10.1162/posc.2006.14.2.153.
  20. Carol Wayne White, The Legacy of Anne Conway (1631–1679): Reverberations from a Mystical Naturalism, SUNY Press, 2008, ISBN   0791474658, p. 6.
  21. Thomas Willis. Whonamedit. Retrieved on 17 July 2012.
  22. Willis T. An Essay of the Pathology of the Brain and Nervous Stock: In Which Convulsive Diseases Are Treated Of. Pordage S, trans. London: Dring, Leigh and Harper; 1684.
  23. Arráez-Aybar, Luis-A. "Thomas Willis, a pioneer in translational research in anatomy (on the 350th anniversary of Cerebri anatome)". Journal of Anatomy. 226 (3): 289-300. doi:10.1111/joa.12273. PMC   4337668 .
  24. Ocular Syndromes and Systemic Diseases: Diabetes Mellitus Archived 4 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine . Medrounds.org (22 March 2007). Retrieved on 17 July 2012.
  25. Dallas, John (2011). "Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Diabetes, Doctors and Dogs: An exhibition on Diabetes and Endocrinology by the College Library for the 43rd St. Andrew's Day Festival Symposium". Archived from the original on 17 August 2011.
  26. Roberts, Jacob (2015). "Sickening sweet". Distillations. 1 (4): 12–15. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  27. Elizabeth Lane Furdell, Textual Healing: Essays on Medieval and Early Modern Medicine, BRILL, 2005, ISBN   9004146636, p. 248.
  28. A facsimile of the 1711 Sales Auction Catalogue of the libraries of Sir Thomas Browne and his son Edward Browne edited with an Introduction by J.S.Finch published by E.J.Brill Leiden 1986

Further reading