1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Willis, Thomas

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WILLIS, THOMAS (1621–1675), English anatomist and physician, was born at Great Bedwin, Wiltshire, on the 27th of January 1621. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford; and when that city was garrisoned for the king he bore arms for the Royalists. He took the degree of bachelor medicine in 1646, and applied himself to the practice of his profession. In 1660, shortly after the Restoration, he became Sedlerian professor of natural philosophy in place of Joshua Cross, who was ejected, and the same year he took the degree of doctor of physic. In 1664 he discovered the medicinal spring at Astrop, near Brackley in Northamptonshire. He was one of the first members of the Royal Society, and was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1664. In 1666, after the fire of London, he took a house in St Martin’s Lane, and there rapidly acquired an extensive practice, his reputation and skill marking him out as one of the first physicians of his time. He died in St Martin’s Lane on the 11th of November 1675 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Willis was admired for his piety and charity, for his deep insight into natural and experimental philosophy, anatomy and chemistry, and for the elegance and purity of his Latin style. Among his writings were Cerebri anatome nervorumque description et usus (1664), in which he described what is still known, in the anatomy of the brain, as the circle of Willis, and Pharmaceutice rationalis (1674), in which he characterized diabetes mellitus. He wrote in English A Plain and Easy Method for Preserving those that are Well from the Infection of the Plague, and for Curing such as are infected. His Latin works were printed in two vols. 4to at Geneva in 1676, and at Amsterdam in 1682. Browne Willis (1682–1760), the antiquarian, author of three volumes of Surveys of the cathedrals of England, was his grandson.

See Munk, Roll of the Royal College of Physicians, London (2nd ed., vol i., London, 1878).