Quatercentenary of Thomas Willis’s birth
Prepared by Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, St John’s College, Oxford Neuroscience, and The Anatomical Society to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birthday of the greatest neuroanatomist of all time, Thomas Willis, on 27 January 2021.
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
Thomas Willis (1621-1675), the founder of clinical neuroscience.
Molnár Z., (2004), Nat Rev Neurosci, 5, 329 - 335
The circle of Willis
Videos from The Royal Sociey's online history of science conference 'Celebrating the quatercentenary of the birth of Thomas Willis'
Iain Pears in conversation with Zoltán Molnár: An insight into Willis era Oxford through writing "An Instance of the Fingerpost"
22 February 2021
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
15 February 2021
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
8 February 2021
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
1 February 2021
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
27 January 2021
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
25 January 2021
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
18 January 2021
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
11 January 2021
Professor Zoltán Molnár talks to Dr Erica Charters for a History of Medicine perspective on Oxford physician and Father of Neurology Thomas Willis.