Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Thomas Willis and circle of arteries

In 1664 the British scientist Thomas Willis (1621-1675) described in his treatise about a circle of arteries at the base of the brain that act as a traffic for the blood flowing to the head.

Willis landmark text, Cerebri Anatome, 1664, was reproduced many times and developed into a pocket-sized standard textbook for medical students.

The circle of Willis provides a potential diversion for collateral blood supply following the occlusion of one major cranial arteries feeding, into it.

Because of Willis’s thorough illustrations and explanation of this structure, it is known today as the circle of Willis.

Scientists had observed this circle as early as the 16th century, but it was Thomas Willis, Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy at Oxford, who first noted it importance in directing the flow of blood. He was aware of this feature and asked his friend Christopher Wren, the architect of Canterbury Cathedral, to illustrate the arterial circle which he did masterfully.

Wren had for the first time injected fluid into the vessels of an animal while being architect for King Charles II, for whom he built St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and 53 other churches.
Thomas Willis and circle of arteries

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