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Glisson, Francis

1. Dates
Born: apparently Rampisham, Dorset, c.1597 I will note that the entry record at Gonville and Caius lists his age as 18 when he was enrolled on 28 June 1617. This one piece of evidence would indicate 1598 or 99.
Died: London, 16 Oct. 1677
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 80
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
All we know is that William Glisson was called a "Gentleman" on Glisson's matriculation record at Cambridge.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Cambridge, M.A., M.D.
Cambridge University, Gonville and Caius College, 1617-34; B.A., 1621; M.A., 1624; incorporated M.A. at Oxford, 1627; M.D., 1634.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
By assumption.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology
Subordinate: Embryology, Natural Philosophy
De rachitide, 1650, was a classic on rickets.
Anatomia hepatis, 1654, contains, inter alia, the description of Glisson's capsule.
Tractatus de natura substantiae energetica, 1672, expounds a theory of natural philosophy that all bodies have life.
Tractatis de ventriculo et intestines, 1677, contains a physiological theory based on a succus nutritus distributed by the nerves, and psychic spirits that the succus carries. It asserts the existence of a general property of irritability in all living parts of the body. It is also a general work on the anatomy and pysiology of digestion. This work also discusses embryogenesis.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Medicine
Secondary: Scientific Society
Junior Fellow of Caius, 1624-9; Greek lecturer, 1625-6; Dean, 1629; Senior Fellow, 1629-34.
Regius Professor of Physic, 1636-77. As nearly as I can make out, Glisson ceased to be resident in Cambridge shortly before his appointment to the Regius chair. Only in 1675 did he appoint a deputy.
His whereabout and activities during the following fifteen years are uncertain. Older account have him in Cambridge until 1640 and then in a medical practice in Colchester, 1640-50. However, he was Reader in Anatomy at the Royal College of Physicians in 1639 (which I assume was a paid position) and delivered the Gulstonian Lecture before the College in 1640. It appears highly likely that he set up practice in London about 1635 (when he was admitted to the College) and that he remained there. Note that both the account of the origin of the book on rickets and Wallis' recollections of the "invisible college" place Glisson in London in the mid 40s.
Medical practice in London, from 1650 at the latest until 1677 (note that he held on to the chair in Cambridge at the same time--which was not uncommon).
8. Patronage
Type: Aristrocrat
He was physician to Anthony Ashley, Earl of Shaftesbury, and his family for several years. He dedicated De natura substantiae, 1672, to Ashley for his patronage and asistance in several difficulties Glisson had met with.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Royal Society, Medical College
Informal Connections: Glisson was one of the group in the so-called Invisible College, the original gathering in London during the 40s seen as the beginning of the Royal Society. Friendship with Wharton and George Ent. Association with G. Bate and A. Regemorte.
Royal Society, 1660-77.
Royal College of Physicians, 1635-77; Reader in Anatomy, 1639; Gulstonian lecturer, 1640; Councilor, 1666; President, 1667-9.
Sources
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 7, 1316-17. Charles Webster, "The College of Physicians: 'Solomon's House in Commonwealth England," Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 41 (1967), 393-412.
  2. William Munk, The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (London, 1878), 1, 218-21, R773 .L62R88.
  3. John Aikin, Biographical Memoirs of Medicine in Great Britain from the Revival of Literature to the Time of Harvey, (London, 1780), pp. 326-38.
  4. John Venn, Biographical History of Gonville and Caius College, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 1897-1901), 1, 236.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Thomas Birch, The History of Royal Society of London, 3, 356-7.
  2. R. Milnes Walker, "Francis Glisson and his Capsule," Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons, 38 (1966), 71-91.
  3. Charles Gillispie, "Physick and Philosophy: a Study of the Influence of the College of Physicians of London upon the Foundation of the Royal Society," Journal of Modern History, 19 (1947), 210-25.
  4. T.M. Brown, The Mechanical Philosophy and Animal Oeconomy, Ph.D dissertation, Princeton University, 1968, pp. 50-7.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
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