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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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Sir William Osler


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.
Sir William Osler (1849-1919). William Osler was born in Bond Head, Canada, in what today is known as Ontario, of English parents. He started his college studies to become a minister, but realizing his true vocation was in medicine, he entered the Toronto School of Medicine, earning his medical degree in 1872.

Osler completed postgraduate studies in Europe, returning as a Professor at the McGill University. In 1884 he moved to Philadelphia to the University of Pennsylvania. In 1889 he left to become Physician-in-Chief and one of the founders of the newly-built John Hopkins hospital. His contributions to this new hospital and the American medical education are innumerable. Dr. Osler initiated the residency programs used today, as well as the programs of third and fourth year medical students in bedside patient rounds.

A prolific writer, Dr. Osler penned over 1,500 articles, monographs, and books, some of which are famous. His “Principles and Practice of Medicine” was published for a record 17 editions and 76 years (1892 -1968)! One of his most famous addresses is “Aequanimitas”, which he delivered when leaving the University of Pennsylvania.

Sir William Osler
Original image courtesy of "Images from the History of Medicine" at  www.nih.gov
In 1905 Dr. Osler accepted the position of Royal Chair of Medicine at Oxford, in England, and in 1911 he was awarded the title of “Sir William Osler”.

Personal Note: In June 1999, I had the opportunity to visit the collection of the John Martin Rare Book Room at the University of Iowa Medical School. I was allowed to read and handle original copies of the Fabrica and the Epitome by Vesalius as well as other original and rare medical books, including De Muto Cordis, by William Harvey. The books I had the opportunity to review were placed on an antique desk that belonged to Sir William Osler. A moment that has stayed with me, as it was the confluence of great individuals: Andreas Vesalius, the anatomist; William Harvey, the physiologist, and Sir William Osler, the medical educator. Dr. Miranda

Sources:
“Sir William Osler, M.D., C.M.” Sarik, J. Yeo, Ch.Pinckney J. The American Surgeon78.4 (2012): 385-7.
“Sir William Osler and gastroenterology” Chaun H. Can J Gastroenterol (2010) 24:10 615-618
“Sir William Osler (1849-1919)” Haas, LF J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1999 67: 137
“Sir William Osler (1849-1919)”Christian, HA Proc Amer Acad Arts Sci (1922) 496-499