- Glisson , Francis
- (1597–1677) English physicianBorn at Rampisham in southwest England, Glisson was educated at Cambridge University where he obtained his MD in 1634. He was appointed professor of physics at Cambridge in 1636 and retained the post until his death. However most of his time was spent in private practice in London, so an assistant was employed to fulfill his Cambridge teaching obligations.Glisson was a member of the group that, beginning in 1645, met regularly in London and out of which the Royal Society was later to emerge. From this ‘Invisible College’ as it was later known, came one of the earliest examples of cooperative research. A committee of nine was set up in 1645 to investigate rickets but, as Glisson's contribution far exceeded that of any other contributor, it was agreed that he should publish the report De rachitide(1650; On Rickets) under his own name. Although the nature of rickets could only begin to be comprehended with the discovery of vitamins by Casimir Funk in 1912, Glisson must be credited for his clear description of the disease.He was more original and influential in his account of irritability, first formulated in his work on the liver, Anatomia hepatis (1654; Anatomy of the Liver). He argued that muscular irritability, that is their tendency to respond to stimuli, was independent of any external input, nervous or otherwise. This was a considerable improvement over the orthodox position adopted by the followers of René Descartes who believed that muscle could only respond by being pumped up like a tire, with a subtle nervous spirit rather than air. Glisson later reported a simple experiment where he placed his arm in a tube filled with water and noted that when his muscles contracted the level of water actually fell. This showed quite clearly, he claimed, that there had been no flow of anything into the limb.It was this idea of irritability which, picked up by Albrecht von Haller in the following century, was to find a permanent place in physiology.
Scientists. Academic. 2011.