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Willis, Thomas

brain anatomy diabetes oxford

(1621–75) English anatomist: made important studies of anatomy of the brain.

Willis studied classics and then medicine at Oxford; for a time he served in the Royalist army in the Civil War. He was one of the small group of ‘natural philosophers’ (including ) who met in Oxford in 1648–9 and who were founder members of the Royal Society of London. His main work was on the anatomy of the brain; the softness of brain tissue makes study of its circulation difficult, but Willis improved on earlier work by injecting the vessels with wax; he thus saw the ring of vessels now known as ‘the circle of Willis’. He also worked on fevers and he described a type of diabetes in which the excessive urine has a sweet taste. In 1776 this was found to be due to sugar, and in the 1920s this disease (diabetes mellitus) was brilliantly explored and effectively treated by and C H Best (1899–1978). Willis was also the first to propose that the essential feature of asthma is spasm of the bronchial muscles.

Willstätter, Richard [next] [back] Williamson, Mykelti (1960–)

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