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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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Scapula

The [scapula], known vernacularly as the "shoulder blade", is a flat, triangular bone that forms the posterior portion of the shoulder girdle. It is described with two surfaces, three borders, and three angles. The scapula attaches to the clavicle by way of the acromioclavicular joint and ligaments. Seventeen muscles attach to the scapula and are discussed in a different article.

This bone actually has two names depending on the language used. In English we use the word [scapula] which has a Latin origin, while in some Latin-based languages the word [om?plato] (Spanish, in this case) has a Greek origin!

[Scapula] originates from the Latin [scapula] (scapula), meaning “shoulder”, also “the back”. The later derivation into “shoulder blade” in English has no known history, except perhaps for the primitive use of animal scapulae as a blade or a spatula in daily chores.

In Greek the term [ωμοπλάτη] (o?mopl?ti?) was used to name the scapula. The origin of the word was the combination of the terms [ώμος] (??mos) meaning “shoulder”, and the word [πλάτη]  (pl?ti?) meaning “back”. One of the seventeen muscles that attach to the [scapula] is the [omohyoid], where the root term [-omo-] indicates that it attaches to the scapula.

It was Andreas Vesalius who popularized the name [scapula] selecting it from the many names this bone had at the time (1543), and is today the the accepted “Nomina Anatomica” term.

There is still discrepancy on the name of the bone in other languages.

Anterior view of the left scapula.  Image in Public Domain, by Henry Vandyke Carter - Gray's Anatomy
Anterior view of the left scapula.  Image in Public Domain, by Henry Vandyke Carter - Gray's Anatomy
• English: scapula
• Spanish: om?plato, also esc?pula
• Italian: scapula
• French: omoplate
• Romanian: omoplat
• Portuguese: esc?pula

In German, they used the word [schulterblatt] which means "shoulder blade".

The anatomical description of this bone continues in this article

Sources:
1. "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8 Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
2. "Gray's Anatomy" 38th British Ed. Churchill Livingstone 1995
3. “The Origin of Medical Terms” Skinner HA 1970 Hafner Publishing Co.
4. "Terminologia Anatomica: International Anatomical Terminology (FCAT)" Thieme, 1998
Note: The links to Google Translate include an icon that will allow you to hear the Greek or Latin pronunciation of the word.