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.


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


Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte, 2nd ed., vol. 5. Edited by A. Hirsch. Berlin, 1934.
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