William Willis (physician)

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This article is about the physician. For other uses of this name, see William Willis (disambiguation).
William Willis
Doctor William Willis
Born 1837 (1837)
Fermanagh, Ireland
Died 1894 (aged 56–57)
Moneen, Fermanagh, Ireland
Resting place Florencecourt, Ireland
Nationality British
Occupation doctor, foreign advisor to Japan
Known for Foreign advisor to Meiji Japan;[1]

William Willis (1837–1894) was a British physician (medical doctor) who joined the British mission in Japan in 1861.


Willis was born in Maguire's Bridge, County Fermanagh (Ireland) in 1837. In 1855 he was enrolled at the faculty of medicine in the University of Glasgow (Scotland), where he completed his pre-medical and pre-clinical studies. He then transferred to the University of Edinburgh. After his graduation in May 1859 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and received the degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University with a thesis on the "Theory of Ulceration". He then worked at the Middlesex Hospital in London. In 1861 he was accepted for a medical post with the British legation in Japan. He reached Edo in May 1862 to begin his duties as medical officer and clerk under Sir Harry Smith Parkes. Between 1862 and 1867 he worked mainly in Yokohama. Among his students was Takaki Kanehiro, the first man to prove that beriberi was connected to malnutrition, and the founder of Japan's first private medical college. During the unsettled years at the end of the Tokugawa bakufu and Meiji restoration, Willis treated the British nationals wounded in the Namamugi Incident and the Bombardment of Kagoshima.

Willis later participated to the Boshin war as the head of medical operations for Satsuma domain During the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, he set a military hospital in the temple of Shōkokuji (相国寺[2]) in Kyoto, not far from the frontline. He continued to support the medical operations of the Satsuma side throughout the Boshin War.[3] Willis was later appointed professor and clinical chief of the Igakko (later the faculty of medicine of Tokyo Imperial University.

In 1870, Willis resigned to become head of the hospital and medical school in Kagoshima at the invitation of Saigo Takamori. The institution later became the medical department of Kagoshima University. With the outbreak of the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877, he returned to Tokyo.

Willis returned to England in 1881, and later spent time with his great friend Ernest Satow in Bangkok, Siam.

According to Satow, Willis was unusually tall at 6'8". 6"3" - the 6"8" is a misreading of the text.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi" p63
  2. ^ Shokokuji Temple
  3. ^ "Saigo Takamori and Okubo Tshimichi", p63. ISBN 4-309-76041-4)