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Francis Willis (physician)

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Francis Willis (physician)

Francis Willis
The Nollekens bust of Willis in the church at Greatford
Born (1718-08-17)17 August 1718
Died 5 December 1807(1807-12-05) (aged 89)
Bourne, Lincolnshire
Residence  England
Citizenship British
Fields Psychiatry
Known for Pioneering work in the field of mental health and his treatment of George III
Dr Francis Willis (detail) by John Russell, 1789, National Gallery, London

Dr. Francis Willis (17 August 1718 – 5 December 1807) was a George III.

Early career

Willis was the third son of the Rev. John Willis of Lincoln. He was a descendant of the Willis family of Fenny Compton, Warwickshire, a kinsman of the George Wyllys who became Governor of Connecticut, New England, and the Willis baronets of Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire.

After an undergraduate career at Lincoln College, Oxford and St Alban Hall he was elected a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford in 1740 and was ordained as a priest. Willis was Rector of the College living of Wapping 1748-1750. He resigned his Fellowship in 1750, as he was required to do on his marriage. He and his wife took up residence at Dunston, Lincolnshire, where he apparently practised medicine before being awarded his medical degrees.

Willis the Doctor

John Russell, Mrs. Francis Willis, 1806, Princeton University Art Museum

His chief interest was medicine and he received the degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Medicine from Oxford in 1759 before serving as a hospital physician in Lincoln, where his early successes with the mentally ill, or "wrongheads" as they were commonly known at the time, led to him treating such patients in his own home.

In 1776, Willis moved to Greatford Hall, near Bourne, Lincolnshire, which he developed as a private rural sanitorium. As part of the treatments his patients were encouraged to perform manual work in and around the stables and fields of the Greatford estate, the fresh air and exercise likely contributing to their recovery. He quickly became recognised as one of the foremost physicians of the day through his treatment of "persons of distinction and respectability" but he would soon receive his most illustrious patient.

A French visitor to the estate in 1796 recorded:

"As the unprepared traveller approached the town, he was astonished to find almost all the surrounding ploughmen, gardeners, threshers, thatchers and other labourers attired in black coats, white waistcoats, black silk breaches and stockings, and the head of each 'bewigged, well powdered, neat and arranged'.
These were the doctor's patients with dress, neatness of person, and exercise being a
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