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Thomas Willis worked as an enormously successful physician in 17th century Oxford, was appointed Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Oxford in 1660, and became a founding member of the Royal Society in Oxford in the same year.

Together with his pupil Richard Lower, the work Willis carried out in Oxford demonstrating the physiological importance of blood circulation to the brain means he is now regarded as the founder of clinical neurology.

Willis made a great number of pioneering observations of various neural structures. His work ultimately formed the foundation of basic neuroanatomical description and comparative neuroanatomy, and his system of nomenclature is still used to this day.

Renowned for describing the “Circle of Willis” - the arterial ring at the base of the brain

First to propose that the higher cognitive function of the human brain comes from convolutions of the cerebral cortex

First to describe the chronic neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis

First to number the cranial nerves in the overall order in which they are now usually enumerated by anatomists

Coined the word 'neurologia' and introduced the terms 'Claustrum', 'Spinal accessory nerve', 'Corprus striatum' and 'Vagus nerve', among many others

Key Publications

Thomas Willis (1621-1675), the founder of clinical neuroscience.

Molnár Z., (2004), Nat Rev Neurosci, 5, 329 - 335

Thomas Willis (1621-1675): The Founder of Neurology

St John's College online exhibition

Zoltán Molnár Lecture 2020

Thomas Willis: 400th anniversary lecture by Zoltán Molnár at the NeurotechEU opening

Zoltán Molnár Lecture 2021

Thomas Willis (1621-1675) 400th Anniversary Lecture, Anatomical Society Meeting 2021

Alastair Compston Lecture 2011

Dr Thomas Willis’s works: ‘the most learned Christopher Wren and the inward dens of the Brain'

Stuart Panter Videos

The famous neurologist Thomas Willis's Work rooms at Oxford University.

Willis news

Iain Pears in conversation with Zoltán Molnár: An insight into Willis era Oxford through writing "An Instance of the Fingerpost"

Professor Zoltán Molnár talks to author and historian Iain Pears to better understand "a time and place of great intellectual, religious, scientific and political ferment" in which Thomas Willis lived and worked.

Thomas Willis (1621 - 1675) 400th Birthday - Petra Hofmann in conversation with Zoltán Molnár: The Willis Legacy in St John's College Library

Professor Zoltán Molnár and St John's College Librarian Dr Petra Hofmann explore the extraordinary collection of Thomas Willis's books and rare letters held by the library 400 years after his birth.

Thomas Willis (1621 - 1675) 400th Birthday - Miloš Judaš in conversation with Zoltán Molnár: What we learn from translating the works of Willis

Professor Zoltán Molnár talks to Professor Miloš Judaš for a unique comparison of Thomas Willis's profound discoveries and medical terminology in his original Latin tongue and the first English translations.

Thomas Willis (1621 - 1675) 400th Birthday - Kevin Talbot in conversation with Zoltán Molnár: Exploring the medical cases of Thomas Willis

Professor Zoltán Molnár talks to Professor Kevin Talbot about Willis's insights into the patients he encountered and his descriptions of their symptoms that could arguably be used for teaching today.

Thomas Willis (1621 - 1675) 400th Birthday - Alastair Compston in conversation with Zoltán Molnár: An insight into the writings of Willis

Professor Zoltán Molnár talks to Professor Emeritus of Neurology Alastair Compston FRS about the deeply influential texts written by the Founder of Neurology Thomas Willis four centuries ago.

Thomas Willis (1621 - 1675) 400th Birthday - Chrystalina Antoniades in conversation with Zoltán Molnár: The Circle of Willis

Professor Zoltán Molnár talks to Associate Professor Chrystalina Antoniades for an in-depth look at the Circle of Willis, the name given to the arterial ring at the base of the brain, in recognition of the man renowned for its original description.

Thomas Willis (1621 - 1675) 400th Birthday - Alastair Buchan in conversation with Zoltán Molnár

Professor Zoltán Molnár talks to Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Alastair Buchan to learn more about Thomas Willis's residence and base for scientific discoveries, Beam Hall.

Thomas Willis (1621 - 1675) 400th Birthday - Erica Charters in conversation with Zoltán Molnár

Professor Zoltán Molnár talks to Dr Erica Charters for a History of Medicine perspective on Oxford physician and Father of Neurology Thomas Willis.

Iain Pears video

Petra Hofmann video

Miloš Judaš video

Kevin Talbot video

Alastair Compston video

Chrystalina Antoniades video

Alastair Buchan video

Erica Charters video