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Thomas Willis - bibliography

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English anatomist and physician, born January 27, 1621, Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire; died November 11, 1675, London.


  • Diatribæ duæ medico-philosophicæ, quarum prior agit de fermentatione sive de motu intestino particularum in quovis corpore, altera de febribus sive de motuearundum in sanguine animalum; his accessit dissertatio epistolica de urinis.
    Londini, T. Roycroft, 1659, 1660; 2nd edition, with additions, 1662, 1665, 1677; Amsterdam, 1663, 1665, 1669; Leiden, 1680.
    English translation in his Practice of physick, 1684, Treatise II: 83-98, 1111-1118.
    The part Dissertatio epistolica de urinis was written to theologist, poet, and physician Ralph Bathurst (1620-1704). It contains the earliest suggestion that fermentation is an intestinal or internal motion of particles; the analogy between putrefaction and fermentation is also noted. In De febribus, cap. X, XIV, is the first description of epidemic typhoid.
  • Cerebri anatome: cui accessit nervorum descriptio et usus.
    Londini, typ. J. Flesher, imp. J. Martyn & J. Allestry, 1664, 1670; Amsterdam 1664, 1665/1666, 1667, 1676, 1683. English translation by S. Pordage, 1681.
    The Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves. Tercentary edition. Edited by W. Feindel; 2 volumes. Montreal, 1965. Reprint of the English translation with a complete annotated bibliography of the work.
    The work that coined the term neurology. This is one of the most desirable collectors’ items in medical neurology and one of the classic publications of English medicine. The illustrations are by Sir Christopher Wren, who was later to became England’s leading architect. The most complete and accurate account of the nervous system which had hitherto appeared. Willis’ classification of the cerebral nerves held the field until the time of Samuel Thomas Soemmering (1755-1830).
  • Pathologiae cerebri, et nervosi generis specimen in quo agitur de morbis convulsivis et de scorbuto.
    338 pages. 4 pl. With portrait. Amsterdam (Amstelodami), apud D. Elzevirium,1668, 1670; Leiden, 1671; Geneva, 1676; London, 1678, 1681; Lyon, 1681; Dutch translation, Middelburg, 1677; Amsterdam 1681. English translation by Samuel Pordage:
  • An Essay on the Pathology of the Brain and Nervous Stock; in Which Convulsive Diseases are Treated of. London, T. Dring, 1681.
  • Affectionum quæ dicuntur hystericæ et hypochondriacæ pathologia spasmodica vindicata. Accesserunt exercitationes medico-physicae duae de sanguinis accensione et de motu musculari. London, Jacob Allestry, 1670.
    Leiden, 1671:
  • Affectionum quæ dicuntur hystericæ et hypochondriacæ pathologia spasmodica vindicata, contra responsionem epistolarem Nathanael. Highmori. Cui accesserunt exercitationes medico-physicae duæ. 1. de sanguinis accensione; 2, De motu musculari.
    Lugd. Bat., Driehuysen et Lopez, 1671.
    In this treatise on hysteria and hypochondria, Willis showed that hysteria was a nervous disease and not a uterine disorder as had been traditionally believed. He compared hysteria in women to hypochondria in men.
  • De anima brutorum quæ hominis vitalis ac sensitiva est, excertitationes duæ; prior physiologica ejusdem naturam, partes, potentias et affectiones tradit; altera pathologica morbos qui ipsam, et sedem ejus primarium, nempe ceerebrum et nervosum genus atticiunt, explicat, eorumque therapeias instituit.
    Oxford, two editions 1672 (quarto and octavo); London, R. Davis, 1672; Amsterdam, 1672, 1674; Lyon, 1676.
    English translation by Samuel Pordage, London, 1683:
  • Two Discourses concerning The Soul of Brutes, Which is that of the Vital and Sensitive of Man.
  • Pharmaceutice rationali, sive diatriba de medicamentorum operationibus in humano corpore
    2 volumes. Oxford, 1674 and 1675. Haag, 1674, 1675. II. Oxford, 1675, 1678; Haag, 1677; Venice, 1708, 1720; Geneva, 1695; London, 1684; English translation, London, 1683.
    According to some authors, this work was first published in London, Not Oxford.
    Pharmaceutice rationalis, with case histories, post mortems, and therapies, attempted to establish pharmacology as a science based on anatomy, morbid anatomy, and chemical experimentation. The book is not considered a success. However, Willis contributed to the acceptance of quinine and reintroduced the colchicine therapy of gout, and he invented several medicines.
  • Opera medica & Physica.
    2 volumes. Genevae, apud Samuelem de Tournes, 1676-1680, 1695; Lyon, 1676, 1681; Amsterdam, 1682; Venice, 1708, 1720.
  • Opera omnia. Geneva, 1676.
    His collected works were published immediately after his death and reprinted several times in the succeeding decades.
    Included in Willis's Opera is William Croone's (1633-1684) De ratione motus musculorum (1664), one of the earliest works on muscular action. Croone, a graduate of Cambridge and one of the original founders of the Royal Society, had a large and prosperous practice, and, in accordance with his wishes, his wife endowed after his death the Croonian Lectures at the Royal College of Physicians, London. In the treatise he expresses his theory that the body of the muscle is responsible for its contractile power which is brought about by a nourishing fluid from the arterial system in combination with another fluid of nervous origin.
  • Practice of Physick.
    London, T. dring, C. Harper, and J. Leigh, 1684.
    Contains translations of all his works except Affectionum quae dicuntur hysteriacae, 1671. His description of the intercostal and spinal nerves is to be found in Treatise III, pp. 128-158.
  • A Plain and Easie Method for Preserving [by God’s Blessing] those that are WELL from the Infection of the PLAGUE, AND For Curing such as are infected with it. Written in the year 1666. By Tho. Willis, late Sidney Professor in Oxford, and a Member of the Royal Society and College of Physicians in London. Never before printed.
    LONDON, Printed for W. Crook, at the Green-Dragon, without Temple-Bar. 1691.
    74 pages.

  • Hansruedi Isler:
    Thomas Willis, 1621-1675: Doctor and Scientist.
    New York, 1968.
  • Audrey B. Davis:
    Circulation Physiology and Medical Chemistry in England 1650-1680.
    Lawrence, Kansas, 1974. Sheds much light on Willis’ chemical ideas.
  • Alfred Meyer and Raymond Hierons:
    On Thomas Willis’s Concepts of Neurophysiology. On Anne Green:
  • Newes from the Dead or A True and Exact Narration of the miraculous deliverance of Anne Green. Written by a Scholler in Oxford: Printed by Leonard Lichfield for Tho Robinson, 1651.
  • Newes from the Dead or A True and Exact Narration of the miraculous deliverance of Anne Green, who being executed at Oxford afterwards revived.
    Written by a Scholler in Oxford. R. Watkins, Oxford 1651.
  • J. T. Hughes:
    Miraculous deliverance of Anne Green: an Oxford case of resuscitation in the seventeenth century. The British Medical Journal, 1982, 285: 1792-1793.
  • Bengt Ljunggren:
    Thomas Wiilis och hjärnans blodförsörjning. Var det Anne Greens död och återupplivning som sporrade hans cirkulationsstudier?
    Läkartidningen, Stockholm, 1984, 11: 13-14.
    In the series: Mannen bakom syndromet [The Man Behind the Syndrome]. Medical History, 1965; 9: 1-15, 142-155. Contains an extensive bibliography.
We thank Richard Siderits for information submitted.

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