Monday, September 19, 2011

William Harvey and the circulation of the blood


William Harvey was born in Folkestone, Kent on 1 April 1578 to Thomas Harvey and his second wife Joan at a ‘faire built stone house’ known as the ‘Post House’. His father was a merchant. Harvey was educated at King's College, Canterbury

In 1953 at sixteen years old, William Harvey moved on to Gonville and Caius College. This college was part of Cambridge University.

Then he continued his study of medicine at University of Padua.

In 1607, he became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and, in 1609, was appointed physician to St Bartholomew's Hospital, and subsequent made Professor at the Royal College of Physicians.

In 1618, he became the personal physician to Kings James I and Charles I.

He was very interested in the blood flow in the human body. Most doctors of the time accepted the teachings of Galen and felt that the lungs were responsible for moving the blood around the body but Harvey questioned these beliefs and investigated them scientifically.

Most of the people believed that blood ‘ebbed and flowed’ though the body passing through the arteries and veins and in and out of the heart rather like the tide coming in and out.

Harvey carried out many experiments, both dissections and physiological experiments on animals. His observations of dissected hearts showed that the valves in the heart allowed blood to flow in only one direction.

Circulation of the blood, Harvey showed, with the heart as a pump, was more reasonable alternative to the Galenic analysis.

He revealed his findings at the College of Physicians in 1616, and in 1628 he published his theories in a book entitled 'Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus' ('An Anatomical Study of the Motion of the Heart and of the Blood in Animals'), where he explained how the heart propelled the blood in a circular course through the body.

His work, which achieved general recognition around the middle of the 17th century after years of voracious criticism from its opponents.

Harvey was also the first to suggest that humans and other mammals reproduced via the fertilization of an egg by sperm. It took a further two centuries before a mammalian egg was finally observed, but nonetheless Harvey's theory won credibility during his lifetime.

William Harvey has been described as the greatest of England’s early experimental scientist and was the first to establish the study of medicine on a sound scientific basis.

William Harvey died in London on June 3, 1657.
William Harvey and the circulation of the blood
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