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Francis Glisson (1597–1677) and the “discovery” of rickets
  1. Peter M Dunn
  1. University of Bristol Department of Child Health Southmead Hospital Southmead Bristol BS10 5NB
  1. Professor Peter Dunn.

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Born in 1597, Francis was the second son of William Glisson of Rampisham of Dorset. Admitted to Caius College, Cambridge in 1617, he took a degree in Arts in 1620, was incorporated MA at Oxford in 1627, and turning to the study of physics, graduated MD from Cambridge in 1634. That same year he was admitted to the College of Physicians, becoming a fellow the following year. In 1636 he was appointed regius professor of physics at Cambridge, a post he held until his death 41 years later.

During the Civil War, he moved to loyalist Colchester, where he practised medicine with great reputation and was present during the siege by parliamentary forces in 1648. Shortly afterwards he went to live in London and became very active in the affairs of the College of Physicians (fig 1), holding, successively, the posts of censor, councillor and president (1667–9).1 2

Figure 1

Francis Glisson, 1597–1677. Portrait in the Royal College of Physicians, London.

Soon after arriving in London, Glisson joined a small group of distinguished doctors and scientists who met weekly to discuss natural and experimental philosophy. This group, with additional members, became the Royal Society after the Restoration. In 1650 Glisson published a treatise De Rachitide, acknowledging the help of seven other physicians belonging to the group. An English edition, edited by Nicholas Culpeper (1616–54), with the title A treatise of …

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