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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 landscape panorama of Vesalius’ “Muscle Men” (1)

 Eight-series landscape panorama of Vesalius' muscle men plates. Paintings attributed to Jan Stephan Van Calcar

UPDATED: There is no doubt that the book “De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem” written by Andreas Vesalius and published by Johannes Oporinus in May, 1543 is one of the most important scientific anatomical and medical books ever written. Much has been said about the place this book has in medical history as part of the discarding of dogmas and the establishment of scientific observation and thinking.

Some of the most intriguing images published in the book are fourteen woodcuts in the second book. These amazing and detailed images show the muscles in a whole body as it is dissected. The text details the structures and the procedure of how the dissection is performed.

It is believed that these images were done by Jan Stephan Van Calcar, an artist from the Titian’s studio, although there are indications that these images may have been authored by somebody else, or even that they were the effort of more than one artist working under the close supervision of Andreas Vesalius.

Today’s anatomical images are very descriptive and the artistry is relegated to the technique used for the depiction of the image. In Vesalius’ muscle men plates each image has a background showing a landscape. It was not until 1903 that it was discovered that the landscapes of the different images were part of a complete landscape. This is evident if these images are placed side by side. There have been several books and articles published on these images. Interestingly, some of the images had to be reversed to be placed in the panorama. This is due to the process of cutting the woodblocks.

The image in this article is one of two identified and composed by Harvey Cushing in 1943 (see sources). He calls it the "eight-series". The "six-series" can be seen here. To see Cushing's original template click here. The panorama of the six-series was identified by Cushing to be an area of the Euganean hills near Venice and Padua, Italy. There landscape formed by the eight-series is an actual region near Padua, Italy showing the ruins of old Roman baths. Cavanagh (1938) adds more information on these images, for his .pdf article, click here.

The image shown at the top of this article was created using original images from Vesalius’ Fabrica and composed using Adobe Fireworks CS5. Click on the image for a larger depiction. The large image is 1800px wide.

This article continues here: "The landscape panorama of Vesalius' Muscle Men (2)"

Sources:
1. “A New View of the Vesalian Landscape” Cavanagh,  GST Med Hist 1983, 27: 77-79
2. “The Panorama of Vesalius: A 'Lost' Design From Titian's Studio” Skandalakis, JE JAMA May 28, 1997, Vol 277, No. 20
3. “A Drawing for the Fabrica; and some Thoughts Upon the Vesalius Muscle-Men” Kemp. M. Med Hist. Jul 1970; 14(3): 277–288
4. “Andreas Vesalius: The Making, the Madman and the Myth” Joffe, SN. Persona Publishing 2009
5. "A Bio-Bibliography of Andreas Vesalius" Cushing, H. (1943) Schumann's