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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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The presence of Andreas Vesalius in Zakynthos (2)

Continued from “The presence of Andreas Vesalius in Zakynthos (1)

The second reminder of the presence of Andreas Vesalius in the Zakynthos Island is a street in the west side of the city of Laganas, “ΟΔΟΣ ΑΝΔΡΕΑ ΒΕΖΑΛ” or” Andrea Vesalius Street”. It is relatively short, narrow and windy, and it has several restaurants and hotels as you get closer to the sea where it ends at the beach. At this point there is a monument that honors Andrea Vesalius. This monument was erected in 1965. It has inscriptions in Greek, and Latin. This is the third memento to Vesalius in Zakynthos.

This monument was erected in Laganas following a legend that Vesalius had shipwrecked and he was found at the beach. Another legend says that Vesalius was left at the beach at Laganas to die as he was very sick. One of the presentations at the 2014 Vesalius Continuum meeting by Dr. Mauritz Biesbrouck disputed these legends with recently found letters by George Boucher to Johanes Metellus. George Boucher was a German jeweler that traveled with Vesalius back from Jerusalem and paid for Vesalius’ burial and monument at the church of Santa Maria della Grazie. These letters were authenticated and analyzed, bringing light to Vesalius’ place of disembarkment in Zakynthos. The Laganas monument, although correct in content, should be moved to the port of Zakynthos, to the point where the old city walls were found, the place where Vesalius collapsed and died.

The monument has a legend in both Greek and Latin. It reads as follows:

ΕΙΣ ΜΝΗΜΗΝ ΤΟΥ
ΑΝΔΡΕΑ ΒΕΖΑΛ
ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΒΕΛΓΟΥ ΑΝΑΤΟΜΟΥ
ΘΑΝΟΝΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΖΑΚΥΝΘΩ ΤΟ 1564
Η ΕΝΩΣΙΣ ΤΩΝ ΔΙΠΛΜΑΤΟΥΧΩΝ ΤΩΝ
ΠΑΝΕΠΙΣΤΗΜΙΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΑΝΩΤΑΤΩΝ ΣΧΟΛΩΝ
ΤΟΥ ΒΕΛΓΙΟΥ, ΤΗΝ ΣΧΟΛΩΝ
ΑΝΗΓΕΙΡΕΝ ΤΘ 1965

IN MEMORIAM

ANDREAE VESALII BRUXELLENSIS
TUMULUS
QUI OBIIT IDIBUS OCTOBRIS ANNO MDLXIV
AETATIS VERO SUAE L
QUUM HIEROSOLYMIS REDISSET

Vesalii cineres venerandaque gentibus ossa
quisquis remota conteueris insula
qua jacer incultis memorosa Zakynthos arenis
gradum, viator et laborem sistito
naturae genium finemque extre maque rerum
vidisse credens coetera insanus labor

The first part is in Greek and reads: ”Here died the great Belgian humanist Andre Vesal. This stone was erected in 1965 by the union of Greeks who gained their qualifications in Belgian Universities” (Dirix, 2014)

The second part is Latin and is a copy of the original epitaph found on Vesalius’ grave as recorded in several manuscripts. It reads:

IN MEMORY
GRAVE OF
ANDREA VESALIUS FROM BRUSSELS
WHO DIED IN OCTOBER OF THE YEAR 1564
AT THE AGE OF 50
DURING HIS RETURN FROM JERUSALEM

Vesalius street sign in Laganas

Directions to the Vesalius monument in Laganas

Vesalius Monument in Laganas

Vesalius Monument in Laganas, Zakynthos Island

The rest is a poem in Latin that is translated as:

“The ashes and bones of Vesalius, sacred to the world
whoever finds then on this isolated island passing by the wild shores of Zakynthos,
should hold his tired steps, and believe that it is here that Vesalius met the ultimate goal of nature
and understood that striving for anything else is pointless” (Stouffis, Z, 1990)

When I visited this spot it was raining very hard and while I waited to take these pictures I looked out at the dark sea almost believing that maybe this was the spot where Vesalius came to land in Zakynthos. Now we know that it is not, but the moment was poignant and made me feel closer to the great anatomist.

On a more mundane note, in this area of Laganas because of the street name there are several businesses named "Vezal", a hotel, a supermarket and a taverna! I could not bring myself to post images of those places.

Continued in  "The presence of Andreas Vesalius in Zakynthos (3)"