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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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Václav Treitz


This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

UPDATED: Dr. Václav Treitz (1819 - 1872). Also known as Wenzel Treitz, Dr. Václav Treitz was born in Hostomice, Bohemia. He attended the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague studying humanities and medicine, receiving his medical degree in 1846. Treitz started postgraduate work at the Vienna General Hospital (Allgemeines Krankenhaus), where Joseph Skoda (1805-1881) was a proponent of “therapeutic nihilism” which stated that “drug treatment usually does more harm than good”, so a minimalistic or even pessimistic approach to diseases was used.

Large numbers of women at this hospital died of “puerperal fever” an postpartum uterine infection due to contamination by the unwashed hands of physicians and utter lack of cleanliness (septic technique had not been yet described). It was during Treitz’s time at the Vienna General Hospital that Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818 – 1865) stated his initial observations on asepsis. Treitz later became a follower of Semmelweis’ and Lister’s teachings and techniques.

In 1852 Treitz was appointed Professor of Pathological Anatomy in the Jagellonian University in Prague.

V?clav Treitz
Original imagecourtesy of Wikipedia.org.
In 1853 he published a paper ("Ueber einen neuen Muskel am Duodenum des Menschens" ) describing a new muscle he discovered at the duodenojejunal junction, later to be known as the eponymic “muscle of Treitz”; the fold of peritoneum over the muscle of Treitz is known today as the "ligament of Treitz". Treitz also described a paraduodenal retroperitoneal hernia that occurs at the paraduodenal recess, just lateral to the ligament of Treitz.

A staunch proponent of Czechoslovakian independence and language, Treitz was publicly attacked for his medical theories and nationalistic beliefs. Isolated and depressed, Treitz committed suicide in 1872.

Sources:
1. "V?clav Treitz (1819-1872): Czechoslovakian Pathoanatomist and Patriot” Fox, RS; Fox, CG; Graham, WP. World J. Surg. 9, 361-366, 1985
2. "Treitz of the ligament of Treitz". Haubrich, W S. (2005) Gastroenterology, 128 (2), 279
3. "Preserving Treitz's muscle in hemorrhoidectomy". Gemsenj?ger, E Diseases of the Colon & Rectum (1982), 25 (7), p. 633.
4. “The Muscle Of Treitz And The Plica Duodeno-Jejunalis” Crymble, PT. The British Medical Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2598 (1910), 1156-1159