Researches into the vascular supply of the central nervous system: an Australian contribution

Catherine E. STOREY
Department of Neurology, Royal North Shore Hospital, St. Leonards, NSW, Australia
cstorey AT

Although Thomas Willis (1621-1675) had first grasped the functional significance of the arterial circle at the base of the brain as early as 1664, it was not until the late 19C, early 20C that researchers began to examine the functional distribution of the major arteries contributing to the 'circle'.

Led by the pioneering experiments of Henri Duret (1849-1921) in the laboratories of the Salpêtrière, much of the early work in this field was undertaken by the French physician/anatomists, of which Charles Foix (1882-1927) was the leading contributor, with contributions from Otto Huebner (1843-1926) in Germany and the English neurologist Charles Beevor (1854-1908). These are names that are familiar to neurologists. There are however, two names that are not so well known. These men were Joseph Lexden Shellshear (1885-1958) and Andrew Abbie (1905-1976).

The two were Australians; both graduated from the Medical School of the University of Sydney; both were later to undertake a period of research in the department of Anatomy at University College London, and although at different periods, both were greatly influenced by the head of this department Professor Grafton Elliot Smith (1871-1937), himself an expatriate Australian and Sydney University graduate. Both retained a phylogenetic approach to their research, so prominent in the studies of Elliot Smith. Shellshear later took the chair of anatomy at Hong Kong University, where he continued his neuro-vascular research until his return to Sydney University as Research Professor of Anatomy from 1937. Abbie returned to Sydney University as Senior Lecturer in Anatomy in 1935. He was to become the Elder Professor of Anatomy at the University of Adelaide in 1945, a position he held until 1970.

Although the University of Sydney is young in comparison to the great European Universities with long anatomical traditions (the Medical School commenced with an intake of 4 students in 1883, while the anatomy building was not completed until 1891), there was clearly an early active culture of research.

The contributions of these early researchers in the field of vascular neuro-anatomy should be acknowledged.

Session VI.  Structures
Thursday, 21 June 2007, 2:30 - 3:00 pm

12th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences   (ISHN)
Los Angeles, California, USA, 19-23 June 2007