Thomas Willis, British physician, c 1660.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by George Vertue, 1742, after a portrait of Thomas Willis MD (1621-1675), c 1660. Willis was one of a small group of natural philosophers who met at Oxford in 1648-1649, and who in 1662 were to become the founder members of the Royal Society of London. Willis, who ran a fashionable medical practice in London, was a pioneer of the clinical and pathological analysis of diabetes, and was the first to distinguish the form of diabetes known as 'diabetes mellitus'. He also carried out pioneering studies into the anatomy of the brain, and diseases of the nervous system and muscles, and was the first to connect the spasm of the bronchial muscles with asthma. He became Profesor of Natural Philosophy at Oxford University in 1660.