The arterial circle described by Willis, and the contribution of his predecessors

Eliasz Engelhardt, Gilberto Levy


The description of arteries at the base of the human brain forming an ‘arterial circle’, named after Thomas Willis, has had a long history after the restoration of human dissection, partly due to the studies of many outstanding anatomists that preceded Willis. He provided, with the collaboration of Richard Lower and Christopher Wren, the first incontestable complete description, as recognized nowadays, accompanied by a superb illustration. Additionally, he presented an explanation for its meaning, indicating for the first time the functional significance of this structure, in health and disease. However, it should be recognized that the initial studies of the arteries of the base of the human brain by Willis’ predecessors, as well as those from ancient times, despite their fragmentary descriptions, were certainly pivotal in paving the way for further and more detailed knowledge of this vascular formation



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