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Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We will post a workweek daily medical or surgical term, its meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History

Thomas Willis, MD
Thomas Willis
(1621-1675)

An English physician and anatomist, 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, and was dispossessed of the family farm at North Hinksey by Parliamentary forces. In the 1640's Willis was one of the royal physicians to Charles I of England. He obtained his medical degree in 1646.

Thomas Willis might well be one of the greatest physicians of the 17th century.He is one of the founders of the Royal Society of London. He is remembered by his many publications, especially "Cerebri Anatome: Cui accessit Nervorum Descriptio et Usu", where he describes the arterial anastomoses at the base of the brain. This work is also the first detailed description of the vasculature of the brain. Willis described nine cranial nerves.

He is considered as the father of Neurology as a discipline. He used the term "neurology" for the first time in 1664. He described several neurological conditions

The Arterial Circle of Willis is a famous eponymous structure found at the base of the brain. It represents an anastomotic roundabout that connects the right and left sides as well as the carotid and vertebral arterial territories that supply the brain. Named after Thomas Willis, this structure was known well before him, but it was Willis who described its function.  If you click on the image or here, you will be redirected to a detailed description of this structure.

Sources:

1. "The legendary contributions of Thomas Willis (1621-1675): the arterial circle and beyond" Rengachary SS et al J Neurosurg. 2008 Oct;109(4):765-75
2. "Thomas Willis, a pioneer in translational research in anatomy (on the 350th anniversary of Cerebri anatome)" Arraez-AybarJournal of Anatomy, 03/2015, Volume 226, Issue 3
3. " The naming of the cranial nerves: A historical review" Davis, M Clinical Anatomy, 01/2014, Volume 27, Issue 1
4. "Observations on the history of the circle of Willis". Meyer A, Hieros, R.Med Hist 6:119–130, 1962


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Carotid

The term [carotid] is Greek and means "to sleep", "to stupefy", or "to put to sleep". This arises from the observed fact that compression of the large arteries in the neck caused animals to fall asleep (Rufus of Ephesus c.100BC). Andrea Vesalius proposed the name "soporalis arteriae", but the Greek term [carotid] is what we use today. 

The carotid arterial system is bilateral. On the right side, the right common carotid artery arises from the brachiocephalic trunk, while on the left side the left common carotid artery arises from the aortic arch. The common carotid artery divides into an external and an internal carotid artery. The internal carotid artery presents a dilation close to its origin, the carotid sinus, and then heads superiorly to enter the carotid canal of the temporal bone. The internal carotid artery does not give any branches in the neck region and ends providing important branches to the eye and the arterial circle of Willis, which supplies part of the brain.

The external carotid ends giving origin to two arteries, the superficial temporal artery and the maxillary artery. The external carotid artery gives off six named branches:

• Superior thyroid artery
• Lingual artery
Facial  artery
Ascending pharyngeal artery
 Occipital artery
Posterior auricular artery

Sources:
1.
"The ancient Hellenic and Hippocratic origins of head and brain terminology" Panourias IG, el al Clin Anat 2012 Jul;25(5):548-581
2. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, AH, 1970
Images property of: CAA.Inc. Artist: Dr. E. Miranda
 
Right carotid artery system - anterior view
Right carotid artery system - anterior view
Click on the image for a larger version