|Born||27 January 1621|
Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire
|Died||11 November 1675 (aged 54)|
|Alma mater||Christ Church, Oxford|
|Known for||Circle of Willis|
|Fields|| Anatomy |
Thomas Willis FRS (27 January 1621 – 11 November 1675) was an English doctor who played an important part in the history of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry,and was a founding member of the Royal Society.
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.In the Civil War years he was a royalist, dispossessed of the family farm at North Hinksey by Parliamentary forces. In the 1640s, Willis was one of the royal physicians to Charles I. Once qualified B. Med. in 1646, he began as an active physician by regularly attending the market at Abingdon, Oxfordshire.
He maintained an Anglican position; an Anglican congregation met at his lodgings in the 1650s, including John Fell, John Dolben, and Richard Allestree.Fell's father Samuel Fell had been expelled as Dean of Christ Church in 1647; Willis married Samuel Fell's daughter Mary, and his 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.
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.(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). 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. Willis was on close terms with Wren's sister Susan Holder, skilled in the healing of wounds.
He and Petty were among of the physicians involved in treating Anne Greene, a woman who survived her own hanging and was pardoned because her survival was widely held to be an act of divine intervention. The event was widely written about at the time, and helped to build Willis's career and reputation.
Willis lived on Merton Street, Oxford, from 1657 to 1667.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. 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.
Willis later worked as a physician in Westminster, London, this coming about after he treated Gilbert Sheldon in 1666.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. According to Noga Arikha:
Willis combined the physician's expert anatomical sophistication with the fluent use of an interpretive apparatus that see-sawed between novelty and tradition, Galenism and Gassendist atomism, iatrochemistry and mechanism.
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.
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.
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.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; in some cases, he advocated hitting the patient over the head with sticks.
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.
He coined the term mellitus in diabetes mellitus. An old name for the condition is "Willis's disease".He observed what had been known for many centuries elsewhere, that the urine is sweet in patients (glycosuria). His observations on diabetes formed a chapter of Pharmaceutice rationalis (1674). Further research came from Johann Conrad Brunner, who had met Willis in London. Willis was the first to identify achalasia cardia in 1672.
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 five volumes (1664) are listed as once in the library of Sir Thomas Browne. His son Edward Browne, who was President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1704 to 1707, also owned books by Willis.
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.
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.
Marcello Malpighi was an Italian biologist and physician, who is referred to as the "Founder of microscopical anatomy, histology & Father of physiology and embryology". Malpighi's name is borne by several physiological features related to the biological excretory system, such as the Malpighian corpuscles and Malpighian pyramids of the kidneys and the Malpighian tubule system of insects. The splenic lymphoid nodules are often called the "Malpighian bodies of the spleen" or Malpighian corpuscles. The botanical family Malpighiaceae is also named after him. He was the first person to see capillaries in animals, and he discovered the link between arteries and veins that had eluded William Harvey. Malpighi was one of the earliest people to observe red blood cells under a microscope, after Jan Swammerdam. His treatise De polypo cordis (1666) was important for understanding blood composition, as well as how blood clots. In it, Malpighi described how the form of a blood clot differed in the right against the left sides of the heart.
Robert Hooke FRS was an English polymath active as a scientist and architect, who, using a microscope, was the first to visualize a micro-organism. An impoverished scientific inquirer in young adulthood, he found wealth and esteem by performing over half of the architectural surveys after London's great fire of 1666. Hooke was also a member of the Royal Society and since 1662 was its curator of experiments. Hooke was also Professor of Geometry at Gresham College.
Sir Christopher Wren PRS FRS was one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history, as well as an anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist. He was accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including what is regarded as his masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710.
John Wilkins, was an Anglican clergyman, natural philosopher and author, and was one of the founders of the Royal Society. He was Bishop of Chester from 1668 until his death.
Richard Lower was an English physician who heavily influenced the development of medical science. He is most remembered for his pioneering work on blood transfusion and the function of the cardiopulmonary system, which he described in his book Tractatus de Corde.
Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology. It is concerned with how a person's cognition and behavior are related to the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Professionals in this branch of psychology often focus on how injuries or illnesses of the brain affect cognitive and behavioral functions.
The 1711 Sales Auction Catalogue of the Library of Sir Thomas Browne highlights the erudition of the physician, philosopher and encyclopedist, Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682). It also illustrates the proliferation, distribution and availability of books printed throughout 17th century Europe which were purchased by the intelligentsia, aristocracy, priestly, physician or educated merchant-class.
Neurophysiology is a branch of physiology and neuroscience that studies nervous system function rather than nervous system architecture. This area aids in the diagnosis and monitoring of neurological diseases. Historically, it has been dominated by electrophysiology—the electrical recording of neural activity ranging from the molar to the cellular, such as patch clamp, voltage clamp, extracellular single-unit recording and recording of local field potentials. However, since the neurone is an electrochemical machine, it is difficult to isolate electrical events from the metabolic and molecular processes that cause them. Thus, neurophysiologists currently utilise tools from chemistry, physics, and molecular biology to examine brain activity.
The year 1667 in science and technology involved some significant events.
The year 1664 in science and technology involved some significant events.
The year 1672 in science and technology involved some significant events.
Browne Willis was an antiquary, author, numismatist and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1705 to 1708.
Hugh May was an English architect in the period after the Restoration of King Charles II. He worked in the era which fell between the first introduction of Palladianism into England by Inigo Jones, and the full flowering of English Baroque under John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. His own work was influenced by both Jones' work, and by Dutch architecture. Although May's only surviving works are Eltham Lodge, and the east front, stables and chapel at Cornbury House, his designs were influential. Together with his contemporary, Sir Roger Pratt, May was responsible for introducing and popularising an Anglo-Dutch type of house, which was widely imitated.
The leptomeningeal collateral circulation is a network of small blood vessels in the brain that connects branches of the middle, anterior and posterior cerebral arteries, with variation in its precise anatomy between individuals. During a stroke, leptomeningeal collateral vessels allow limited blood flow when other, larger blood vessels provide inadequate blood supply to a part of the brain.
Ralph Bathurst, FRS was an English theologian and physician.
The Oxford Philosophical Club refers to a group of natural philosophers, mathematicians, physicians, virtuosi and dilettanti gathering around John Wilkins FRS (1614–1672) at Oxford in the period 1649 to 1660. It is documented in particular by John Aubrey: he refers to it as an "experimental philosophical club" run weekly by Wilkins, who successfully bridged the political divide of the times. There is surviving evidence that the Club was formally constituted, and undertook some projects in Oxford libraries. Its historical importance is that members formed one of the major groups that came together in the early 1660s to form the Royal Society of London.
Robert Pitt M.D. (1653–1713) was an English physician.
Walter Needham was an English physician, known as an anatomist.
Sir Edmund King (c.1630–1709), also Edmund Freeman, Edmond King, was an English surgeon and physician. He is known as an experimentalist, and also for his attendance on Charles II of England.