Chapter 8: the development of neurology and the neurological sciences in the 17th century.Handb Clin Neurol. 2010; 95:91-106.HC
Circa 1660 several favorable factors, instrumental to the invention of neurology, converged at the University of Oxford. Animals and men were believed to have a material soul whose functions throughout the nervous system were accessible to research. In 1659 inductive methods were introduced in clinical medicine by Thomas Willis, the founder of English epidemiology and biochemistry. The Vertuosi,who later founded the Royal Society, performed chemical experiments in teams, and Willis, head of their laboratory, gained experience in teamwork. In 1658 J.J. Wepfer published his method of dye injection in cerebral vessels at autopsy, and Christopher Wren had already experimented with intravenous injections. William Petty had performed dissections at Leiden, training with Francis Sylvius's brain and comparative anatomy. Petty came to Oxford in 1650, began to study chemistry with Willis, and instructed him in Sylvius's methods of cerebral and comparative anatomy. Willis continued this work with a team of highly qualified colleagues, Wren included, and published the first monograph on brain anatomy, Cerebri anatome, in 1664. This Latin book, illustrated by Wren, came out in four editions in the first year, and was reprinted up to 1720. It contained a definition of reflex action, the recognition of the general functions of cortex, white matter, and brain tracts, a complete description of the autonomic nervous system, Willis's new term "Neurologia," and his promise to follow up with his "Psychologia." He presented the latter in 1672 as De anima brutorum, a book on the material soul of animals and man as the carrier of all functions of the nervous system. There was a physiological part, a textbook of neurophysiology, and a pathological part, a compendium of neurological and psychiatric syndromes, with early descriptions of myasthenia, restless legs, narcolepsy, dissociative and bipolar disease, and general paralysis of the insane. In 1667 he published a book on convulsive diseases, in which he described the blood-brain barrier, epileptic and hysterical brain disorders, and Parkinson's disease. Thus Willis recognized and presented the key themes of the future specialty.