Thomas Willis


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Willis, Thomas,

1621–75, English physician and anatomist. He became professor at Oxford in 1660 and in 1666 established a practice in London. An authority on the brain and the nervous system, he discovered the 11th cranial nerve and a circle of arteries at the base of the brain (the circle of Willis). He was the first to note the presence of sugar in the urine of diabetics. His works, written in Latin, include Of the Anatomy of the Brain, illustrated by Sir Christopher Wren, published in 1664, and translated in The Remaining Medical Works … of Doctor Thomas Willis (1681).

Willis, Thomas

 

Born Jan. 27, 1621, in Oxford; died Nov. 11, 1675, in London. English anatomist and physician.

Willis studied in Oxford and became a professor at Oxford University in 1660. In 1667 he moved to London, where he became famous for combining the practical work of a physician with research on the anatomy of the brain and its blood vessels. Willis’ name is given to arteries at the base of the brain, to the llth pair of cranial nerves—the accessory nerve—which he was the first to describe, and to part of the stomach bordering on the pylorus.

WORKS

Cerebri anatome, cui accessit Nervorum descriptio et usus. Amsterdam, 1683.

REFERENCE

Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte, 2nd ed., vol. 5. Edited by A. Hirsch. Berlin, 1934.
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The difficulties inherent in reconciling mechanical philosophy with metaphysical thinking are well described, but the discussion is limited to the writings of only two Restoration physicians (Thomas Willis and Walter Charleton), merely hinting at the broader ethical, cultural and historical implications of this dilemma.
Prior to Thomas Willis' revolutionary 17th-century dissections of brains--human and animal--people generally believed that the soul's domain was the heart.
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The recorded events are exceptional: the earliest constructions of a historiography of printing by Michael Sparke, Richard Atkin, and John Streater; Thomas Willis's search for the soul's anatomy in the dissected brains and nervous systems of "Hecatombs" of cadavers; Henry Oldenburg's singular effort to establish "experimental research, replication, openness, transnational cooperation, and peer review" (532) in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions; the first royal "astronomical observer" John Flamsteed's encounters with scientific and personal rivalries which affected Historia Coelestis Britannica's publication.
A third man, Thomas Willis, 72, from the north of England, was said to be too ill in prison to attend the hearing yesterday.
It was the English physician Thomas Willis (1621-1675) who in 1670 was the first modern to point out the sweetness.
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