1902 Encyclopedia > William Harvey

William Harvey
English physician who discovered the circulation of the blood
(1578-1657)




WILLIAM HARVEY (1578-1657), the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, was the eldest son of Thomas Harvey, a prosperous Kentish yeoman, and was born at Folkestone on April 1, 1578. After passing through the grammar school of Canterbury, on the 31st of May 1593, having just entered his sixteenth year, he became a pensioner of Caius College. Cambridge; at nineteen he book his B.A. degree, and soon after, giving chosen the profession of medicine he went to study at Padua under Fabricus and Casserius (see ANATOMY, vol. i. pp. 809, 810). At the age of twenty-four Harvey became doctor of medicine, April 1602. Returning to England in the first year of James I., he settled in London; and two years later he married the daughter of Dr Lancelot Brown, who had been physician to Queen Elizabeth. In the same year Harvey became a candidate of the Royal College of Physicians, and was duly admitted a fellow (June 1607). In 1609 he obtained the reversion of the post of physician to St Bartholomew’s Hospital. His application was supported by the king himself and by Dr Atkins, the president of the college. On the death of Dr Wilkinson in the course of the same year he succeeded to the post. He was thrice censor of the college, and in 1615 was appointed Lumleian lecturer. In the following year—the year of Shakespeare’s death—he began his course of lecturers, and first brought forward his views upon the movements of the heart and blood.1 Meanwhile his practice increased, and he had the lord chancellor, Francis Bacon, and the earl of Arundel among his patients. In 1618 he was appointed physician extraordinary to James I., and on the next vacancy physician in ordinary to his successor. In 1628, the year of the publication of the Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis, he was elected treasurer of the College of Physicians, but at the end of the following year he resigned the office, in order, by command of Charles I., to accompany the young duke of Lennox (James Stuart, afterwards duke of Richmond) on his travels. He appears to have visited Italy, and returned in 1632. Four years later he accompanied the earl of Arundel on his embassy to the emperor. He was eager in collecting objects of natural history, sometimes causing the earl anxiety for his safety by his execution in a country infested by robbers after the Thirty Years’ War. In a letter written in this journey, he says—"By the way we could scarce see a dog, crow, kite, raven, or any bird, or anything to anatomize; only some few miserable people, the reliques of the war and the plague, whom famine had made anatomies before I came." Having returned to his practice in London at the close of the year 1636, he accompanied Charles I. in one of his journeys to Scotland (1639 or 1641). While at Edinburgh he visited the Bass Rock; he minutely described its abundant population of sea-fowl in his treatise De Generatione, and incidentally speaks of the then credited account of the solan goose growing on trees as a fable. He was in attendance on the king at the battle of Edgehill (October 1642). Where he withdrew under a hedge with the prince of Wales and the duke of York (then boys of twelve and ten years old), "and took out of his pocket a book and read. But he had not read very long before a bullet of a great gun grazed on the ground near him, which made him remove his station," as he afterward told Aubrey. After the indecisive battle, Harvey followed Charles I. to Oxford. "where," writes the same gossiping narrator, "I first saw him, but was then too young to be acquainted with so great a doctor. I remember he came several times to our college (Trinity) to George Bathurst, B.D., who had a hen to hatch eggs in his chamber, which they opened daily to see the progress and way of generation." In Oxford he remained three years, and there was some chance of his being superseded in his office at Sr Bartholomew’s Hospital, "because he hath withdrawn himself from his charge, and is retired to the party in arms against the Parliament." It was no doubt at this time that his lodging at Whitehall were searched, and not only the furniture seized but also invaluable manuscripts and anatomical preparations.2

While with the king at Oxford he was made warden of Merton College, but a year later, in 1646, that city surrendered to Fairfax, and Harvey returned to London. He was now sixty-eight years old, and having resigned his appointments and relinquished the cares of practice, lived in learned retirement with one or other of his brothers. It was in his brother Daniel’s house at Combe that Dr (afterwards Sir George) Ent, a faithful friend and disciple (1604-1689), visited him in 1650. "I found him," he says, "with a cheerful and sprightly countenance investigating, like Democritus, the nature of things. Asking if all were well with him—"How can that be,’ he replied, ‘when the state is so agitated with storms and I myself am yet in the open sea? And indeed, were not my mind solaced by my studies and the recollection of the observations I have formerly made, there is nothing which should make me desirous of a longer continuance. But thus employed, this obscure life and vacation from public cares which would disgust other minds is the medicine of mine." The work on which he had been chiefly engaged at Oxford, and indeed since the publication of his treatise on the circulation in 1628, was an investigation into the recondite but deeply interesting subject of generation. Charles I. had been an enlightened patron of Harvey’s studied, hat put the royal deer parks at Windsor and Hampton Court at his disposal, and had watched his demonstration of the growth of the chick with no less interest than the movements of the living heart. Harvey bad now collected a large number of observations, though he would probably have delayed their publication. But Ent succeeded in obtaining the manuscripts, with authority to print them or not as he should find the. "I went from him," he says, "like another Jason in possession of the golden fleece, and when I came home and perused the pieces singly, I was amazed that so vast a treasure should have been so long hidden." The result was the publication of the Exercitationes de Generatione (1651).





This was the last of Harvey’s labours. He had now reached his seventy-third year. His theory of the circulation had been opposed and defended, and was now generally accepted by the most eminent anatomists both at home and abroad. He was known and honoured throughtout Europe, and his own college erected a statue in his honour (1652), "viro monuments suis immortali." In 1654 he was elected to the highest post in his profession, that of president of the college; but the following day he met the assembled fellows, and declining the honour for himself on account of the infirmities of age, recommended the-election of the late president Dr Prujean. He accepted, however, the office of consilirius, which he again held in the two following years. He had already enriched the college with other gifts besides the honour of his name. He had raised for them "a noble building of Roman architecture (rustic work with Corinthian pilasters), comprising a great parlour or conversation room below and a library above;" he had furnished the library with books, and filled the museum with "simples and rarities," as well as with specimens of instruments used in the surgical and obstetric branches of medicine. At last he determined to give to his beloved college his paternal estate at Burmarsh in Kent. His wife had died some years before, his brothers were wealthy men, and he was childless, so that he was defrauding no heir when, in July 1656, he made the transfer of this property, then valued at £56 per annum, with provision for a salary to the college librarian and for the endowment of an annual oration, which is still given on the anniversary of the day. The orator, so Harvey orders in his deed of gift, is to exhort the fellows of the college "to search out and study the secrets of nature by way of experiment, and also fro the honour of the profession to continue mutual love and affection among themselves."

Harvey, like his contemporary and great successor Sydenham, was long afflicted with gout, but he preserved his activity of mind to an advanced age. In his eightieth year, on the 3d of June 1657,1 he was attacked by paralysis, and though deprived of speech was able to send for his nephews and distribute his watch, ring, and other personal trinkets among them. He died the same evening, "the palsy giving him an easy passport," and was buried with great honour in his brother Eliab’s vault at Hempstead in Essex, "annorum et famae satur."

Aubrey, to whom we owe most of the minor particulars about Harvey which have been preserved, says—"In person he was not tall, but of the lowest stature; round faced, olivaster complexion, little eyes, round, very black, full of spirits; his hair black as a raven, but quite white twenty years before he died." The best portrait of him extant is by Cornelius Jansen in the library of the College of Physicians, one of those rescued from the great fire, which destroyed their original hall in 1666. It has been, often engraved, and is prefixed to the fine edition of his works published in 1766.

Harvey’s Work on the Circulation.—In estimating the character and value of the discovery announced in the Exercitatio de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis, it is necessary to bear in mind the previous state of knowledge on the subject. Aristotle taught that in man and the higher animals the blood was elaborated from the food in the liver, thence carried to the heart, and sent by it through the veins over the body. His successors of the Alexandrian school of medicine, Erasistratus and Herophilus, further elaborated his system, and taught that, while the veins carried blood from the heart to the members, the arteries carried a subtle kind of air or spirit. For the practical physician only two changes had been made in this theory of the circulation between the Christian era and the 16th century. Galen has discovered that the arteries were not, as their name implies, merely air-pipes, but that they contained blood as well as vital air or spirit. And it had been gradually ascertained that the nerves (_____) which arose from the brain and conveyed "animal spirits" to the body were different from the tendons or sinews (_____) which attach muscles to bones. First, then, the physicians of the time of Linacre knew that the blood is not stagnant in the body. So did Shakespeare and Homer, and every augur who inspected the entrails of a victim, and every village barber who breathed a vein. Plato even used the expression GREEK. But no one had a conception of a continuous stream returning to its source (a circulation in the true sense of the word) either in the system or in the lungs. If they used the word circulation, as did Caesalpinus,2 it was as vaguely as the French policeman cries "Circulez." The movements of the blood were in fact though to be slow and irregular in direction as well as in speed, like the "circulation’ of air in a house, or the circulation of a crowd in the streets of a city. Secondly, they supposed that one kind of blood flowed from the liver to the right ventricle of the heart, and thence to the lungs and the general system by the veins, and that another kind flowed from the left ventricle to the lings and general system by the arteries. Thirdly, they supposed that the septum of the heart was pervious and allowed blood to pass directly from the right to the left side. Fourthly, they had no conception of the functions of the heart as the motor power of the movement of the blood. They doubted whether its substance was muscular; they supposed its pulsation to be due to expansion of the spirits it contained; they believed the only dynamic effect which it had on the blood to be sucking it in during its active diastole, and they supposed the chief use of its constant movements to be the due mixture of blood and spirits.

Of the great anatomists of the 16th century, Sylvius (In Hipp, et Gal. Phys. Partem Anatom, Isagoge) described the valves of the veins; Vesalius (De Humani Corporis Fabrica, 1542) ascertained that the septum between the right and left ventricles is complete, though he could not bring himself to deny the invisible pores which Galen’s system demanded. Servetus, in his Christianismi Restitutio (1553), goes somewhat further than his fellow-student Vesalius, and says—"Paries ille medius non est aptus ad communicationem et elaborationem illam; licet aliquid resudare possit;" and, from this anatomical fact and the large size of the pulmonary arteries he concludes that there is a communication in the lungs by which blood passes from the pulmonary artery to the pulmonary vein—"Eodem artificio quo in hepate fit transfusio a vena porta ad venam cavam propter sanguinem, fit etiam in pulmone transfusion a vena arteriosa ad arteriam venosam propter spiritum." The natural spirit of the left side and the vital spirit of the right side of the heart were therefore, he concluded, practically the same, and hence two instead of three distinct spiritus should be admitted. It seems doubtful whether even Servetus rightly conceived of the entire mass of the blood passing through the pulmonary artery and the lung. The transference of the spiritus to the lungs, and its return to the left ventricle as spiritus vitalis, was the function which he regarded as important. Indeed a true conception of the lesser circulation as a transference of the whole blood of the right side to the left was impossible until the corresponding transference in the greater or systemic circulation was discovered. Servatus, however, was the true predecessor of Harvey in physiology, and his claims to that honour are perfectly authentic and universally admitted.3

The way then to Harvey’s great work had been paved by the discovery of the valves in the veins, and by that of the lesser circulation,—the former due to Sylvius and Fabricius, the latter to Servetus,—but the significance of the valves was unsuspected, and the fact of even the pulmonary circulation was not generally admitted in its full meaning.





In his treatise Harvey proves (1) that it is the contraction, not the dilatation, of the heart which coincided with the pulse, and that the ventricles as true muscular sacs squeeze the blood which they contain into the aorta and pulmonary artery; (2) that the pulse is not produced by the arteries enlarging and so filling, but by the arteries being filled with blood and so enlarging; (3) that there are no pores in the septum of the heart, so that the whole blood in the right ventricle is sent to the lungs and round by the pulmonary veins to the left ventricle, and also that the whole blood in the left ventricle is again sent into the arteries, round by the smaller veins into the venae cavae, and by them to the right ventricle again—thus making a complete "circulation"; (4) that the blood in the arteries and that in the veins is the same blood; (5) that the action of the right and left sides of the heart, auricles, ventricles, and valves, is the same, the mechanism in both being for reception and propulsion of liquid and not of air, since the blood on the right side, though mixed with air, is still blood; (6) that the blood sent through the arteries to the tissues is not all used, but that most of it runs through into the veins; (7) that there is no to and fro undulation in the veins, but a constant stream from the distant parts towards the heart; (8) that the dynamical starling-point of the blood is the heart and not the liver.

The method by which Harvey arrived at his complete and almost faultless solution of the most fundamental and difficult problem in physiology has been often discussed, and is well worthy of attention. He begins his treatise by pointing out the many inconsistencies and defects in the Galenical theory, quoting the writings of Golden himself, of Fabricius, Columbus, and others, with great respect, but with unflinching criticism. For, in his own noble language, wise men must learn anatomy, not from the decrees of philosophers, but from the fabric of nature herself, "nec ita in verba jurare antiquitatis magistrate, ut veritatem amicam in apertis relinquant, et in conspectus omnium deserant." He had, as we know, not only furnished himself with all the knowledge that books and the instructions of the best anatomists if Italy could give, but, by a long series of dissections, had gained a far more complete knowledge of the comparative anatomy of the heart and vessels than any contemporary—we may almost say that any successor, until the times of Hunter and Meckel. Thus equipped he tells us that he began his investigations into the movements of the heart and blood by looking at them—i.e., by seeing their action in living animals. After a modest preface, he heads his first chapter "Ex vivorum dissectione, quails sit cordis motus." He minutely describes what he saw and handled in dogs, pigs, serpents, frogs, and fishes, and even in slugs, oysters, lobsters, and insects, in the transparent minima squilla, "quae Anglice dicitur a shrimp," and lastly in the chick while still in the shell. In these investigation he used a perspicillum or simple lens. He particularly describes his observations and experiments on the ventricles, the auricles, the arteries, and the veins. He shows how the arrangement of the vessels in the foetus supports his theory. He adduces facts observed in disease as well as in health to prove the rapidity of the circulation. He explains how the mechanism of the valves in the veins is adapted, not, as Fabricius believed, to moderate the flow of blood from the heart, but to favour its flow to the heart. He estimates the capacity of each ventricle, and reckons the rate at which the whole mass of blood passes through it. He elaborately and clearly demonstrates the effect of obstruction of the blood-stream in arteries or in veins, by the forceps in the case of a snake, by a ligature on the arm of a man, and illustrates his argument by figures. He then sums up his conclusion thus:—"Circulari quadam motu, in circuitu, agitari in animalibus sanguinem, et esse in perpetuo motu; et hanc esse actionem sive functionem cordis quam pulsu peragit; et omnino motus et pulsus cordis causam unam esse." Lastly, in the 15th, 16th, and 17th chapters, he adds certain confirmatory evidence, as the effect of position on the circulation, the absorption of animal poisons and of medicines applied externally, the muscular structure of the heart and the necessary working of its valves. The while treatise, which occupies only 67 pages of large print in the quarto edition of 1766, is model of accurate observation, patient accumulation of facts, ingenious experimentation, bold yet cautions hypothesis, and logical deduction.

In one point only was the demonstration of the circulation incomplete. Harvey could not discover the capillary channels by which the blood passes from the arteries to the veins. This gap in the circulation was supplied several years later by the great anatomist Malpighi, who in 1661 saw in the lungs of a frog, by the newly invented microscope, how the blood passes from the one set of vessels to the other. Harvey saw all hat could he, seen by the unaided eye in his observation on living animals; Malpighi, four years after Harvey’s death, by another observation on a living animal, completed the splendid chain of evidence. If this detracts from Harvey’s merit it leaves Servetus no merit at all. But in fact the existence of the channels first seen by Malpighi was as clearly pointed to by Harvey’s reasoning as the existence of Neptune by the calculations of Le Verrier and of Adams.

Harvey himself and all his contemporaries were well aware of the novelty and importance of his theory. He says in the admirable letter to Dr Argent, president of the College of Physicians, which follows the dedication of his treatise to Charles I., that he should not have ventured to publish "a book which alone asserts that the blood pursues its course and flows back again by a new path, contrary to the received doctrine taught so many ages by innumerable learned and illustrious men," if he had not set forth his theory for more than nine years in his college lectures, gradually brought it to perfection, and convinced his colleagues by actual demonstrations of the truth of what he advanced. He anticipates opposition, and even obloquy or loss, from the novelty of his views. These anticipations however, the event proved to have been groundless. If we are to credit Aubrey indeed, he found that after the publication of the De Motu "he fell mightily in his practice; ‘twas believed by the vulgar that he was crackbrained, and all the physicians were against him." But the last assertion sook him, they must soon have returned, for Harvey left a handsome fortune. By his own profession the book was received as it deserved. So novel a doctrine was not to accepted without due demonstrations for years; they were already convinced of the truth of his theory, urged its publication, continued him in his lectureship, and paid him every honour in their power. Abroad the book was widely read and much canvassed. Few accepted the new theory; but no one dreamt of claiming the honour of it fro himself, nor for several years did any one pretend that it could be found in the works of previous authors. The first attack on it was a feeble tract by one Primerose, a pupil of Riolanus (Exerc. Et Animadv. In Libr. Harvei de Motu Cord. et Sang. 1630). Five years later Parisanus, an Italian physician, published his Lapis Lydius de Motu Cord. et Sang. (Venice, 1635), a still more bulky and futile performance. Primerose’s attacks were "imbellia pleraque" and "sine ictu;" that of Parisanus "in quamplurimis turpius," according to the contemporary judgment of Vessling. Their dullness has protected them from further censure. Caspar Hoffmann, professor at Nuremberg, while admitting the truth of the lesser circulation in the full Harveian sense, denied the rest if the new doctrine. To with great consideration yet with modest dignity, beseeching him to convince himself by actual inspection of the truth of the facts in question. He concluded—"I accept your censure in the candid and friendly spirit in which you say you wrote it; do you also the same to me, now that I have answered you in the same spirit." This letter is dated May 1636, and in that year Harvey passed through Nuremberg with the earl of Arundel, and visited Hoffmann. But he failed to convince him; "nec tamen valuit Harveius vel persuading the obstinate old Galenist to soften his opposition to the new doctrine, and thinks that his complete conversion might have been effected if he had but lived a little longer—"nec dubito quin concessisset tandem in nostra castra." While in Italy the following year Harvey visited his old university of Padua, and demonstrated his views to Professor Vessling. A few months later this excellent anatomist wrote him a courteous and sensible letter, with certain objections to the new theory. The answer to this had not been preserved, but it convinced his candid opponent, who admitted the truth of the circulation in a second letter (both were published in 1640), and afterwards told a friend. "Harveium nostrum si audis, agnosces coelestem sanguinis et spiritus ingressum ex arteries per venas in dextrum cordis sinum." Meanwhile a greater convert, Descartes, in his Discours sur la Méthode (1637) had announced his adhesion to the new doctrine, and refers to "the English physician to whom belongs the honour of having of having first shown that the course of the blood in the body is nothing less than a kind of perpetual movement iin a circle. Wslaeus of Leyden, Regius of Utrecht, and Schlegel of Hamburg successively adopted the new physiology. Of these professors, Regius was mauled by the pertinacious Primerose and mauled him in return (Spongia qua eluuntur sordes quae Jac. Primirosius, &c., and Antidotum adv. Spongiam venenatam Henr. Regii). Descartes afterwards repeated Harvey’s vivisections, and, more convinced that ever, demolished an unlucky Professor Plempius of Louvain, who had written on the other side. Dr George Ent also published an Apologia pro Circulatione Sanguinies in answer to Parisanus.

At last Riolan ventured to published his Enchiridium Anatomicum (1648), in which he attacks Harvey’s theory, and proposes one of his own. Riolan had accompanied the queen dowager of France (Maria de’ Medici) on a visit to her daughter at Whitehall, and had there met Harvey and discussed his theory. He was, in the opinion of the judicious Haller, "vir asper et in nuperos suosque coaevos immitis ac nemini parcens, nimis avidus suarum laudum praecox et se ipso fatente anatomicorum princes. Harvey replied to the Enchiridium with perfectly courteous language and perfectly conclusive arguments, in two letters De Circulatione Sanguinis, which were published at Cambridge in 1649, and are still well worth reading. He speaks here of the "circuitus sanguinis a me inventus." Riolan was convinced, but lived to see another professor of anatomy appointed in his own university who taught Harvey’s doctrines. Even in Italy, Trullius, professor of anatomy at Rome, expounded the new doctrine in 1651. But the most illustrious converts were Pecquest of Dippee, the discoverer of the thoracic duct, and of the true course of the lacteal vessels, and Thomas Bartholinus of Copenhagen, in his Anatome ex omnium Veterum Recentiorunque Observationibus, imprimis Institutionibus beati mei parentis Caspari Bartholini, ad Circulationem Harveianam et vasa lymphatica renovate (Leydem 1651). At last Plempius also retracted all his objections; for, as he candidly stated, "having opened the bodies of a few living dogs, I find that all Harvey’s statements are perfectly true." Hobbes of Malmesbury could thus say in the preface to his Elementa Philosophiae that his friend Harvey, "solus quod sciam, docriniam vonam superata invidia vivens stabilivit."

It has been made a reproach to Harvey that he failed to appreciate the importance of the discoveries of the lacteal and lumphatic vessels by Aselli, Pecquet, and Bartholinus. In three letters on the Darmstadt, one to Dr Morrison of Paris (1652) and two to Dr Horst of Darmstadt (1655), a correspondent of Bartholin’s, he discusses these observation, and shows himself unconvinced of their accuracy. He writes, however, with great moderation and reasonableness, and excuses himself from investigating the subject on the score of the infirmities of age; he was then above seventy-four. The following quotation shows the spirit of these letters:—"Laudo equidem summopere Pecqueti aliorumque in indaganda veritate industriam singularem, nec dubito quin multa adhue in Democriti puteo abscondita sint, a venture seculi indefatigabili diligentia expromeda." Bartholin, though reasonably disappointed in not having Harvey’s concurrence, speaks of him with the utmost respect, and generously says that the glory of discovering the movements of the heart and of the blood was enough for one man.

Harvey’s Work on Generation.—We have seen how Dr Ent persuaded his friend to publish this book in 1651. It is between five and six times as long as the Exerc. De Motu Cord. et Sung., and is followed by excursus De Partu, De Uteri Membranis, De Conceptione; but, though the fruit of as patient and extensive observations, its value is far inferior. The subject was far more abstruse, and in fact inaccessible to proper investigation without the aid of the microscope. And the field was almost untrodden since the days of Aristotle. Fabricius, Harvey’s masters, in his work De Formatione Ovi et Pulli (1621), had alone preceded him in modern times. Moreover, the seventy-one chapters which form the book lack the coordination so conspicuous in the earlier treatise, and some of them seem almost like detached chapters of a system which was never completed of finally revised.

Aristotle had believed that the male parent furnished the body of the future embryo, while the female only nourished and formed the seed; this is in fact the theory on which, in the Eumenides of Aeschylus, Apollo obtains the acquittal of Orestes. Galen taught almost as erroneously that each parent contributes seeds, the union or which produced the young animal. Harvey, after speaking with due honour of Aristotle and Fabricius, begins rightly "ab ovo"; for, as he remarks, "eggs cost little and are always and everywhere to be had," and moreover "almost all animals, even those which bring forth their young alive, and man himself, are produced from eggs" ("omnia omnino animalia, etiam viviparam atque hominem adeo ipsum, ex ovo progini"). This dictum, usually quoted as :omne vivum ex ovo," would alone stamp this work as worthy of the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, but it was a prevision of genius, and was not proved to be a fact until Von Baer discovered the mammalian ovum in 1827. Harvey proceeds with a careful anatomical description of the ovary and oviduct of the hen, describes the new-laid egg, and then gives an account of the appearance seen on the successive days of incubation, from the 1st to the 6th, the 10th, and the 14th, and lastly describes the process of hatching. He then comments upon and corrects the opinions of Aristotle and Fabricius, declares against spontaneous generation (though in one passage he seems to admit the current doctrine of production of worms by putrefaction as an exception), proves that there is no semen faemineum, that the chalazae of the hen’s egg are not the semen galli, and that both parents contribute to the formation of the egg. He describes accurately the first appearance of the ovarian ova as mere specks, their assumption of yelk, and afterwards of albumen. In chapter xlv. He describes two methods of production of the embryo from the ovum: one is metamorphosis, or the direct transformation of pre-existing material, as a worm from an egg, or butterfly from an Aurelia (chrysalis); the other is epigenesist, or development with addition of parts, the true generation observed in all higher animals. Chapters xlvi.-1. are devoted to the abstruse question of the efficient cause of generation, which after much discussion of the opinions of Aristotle and Sennertius, Harvey refers to the action of both parents as the efficient instruments of the first great cause.1 He then goes on to describe the order in which the several parts appear in the chick. He states that the punctum saliens or foetal heart is the first organ to be seen, and explains that the nutrition of the chick is not only effected by yelk conveyed directly into the midgut, as Aristotle taught, but also by absorption from yelk and white by the umbilical (omphalomeseraic) veins; on the fourth day of incubation appear two masses (which he eddly names vermiculus), one of which develops into three vesicles, to form the cerebrum, cerebellum, and eyes, the other into the breastbone and thorax; on the sixth or seventh day come the viscera, and lastly, the feathers and other external parts. Harvey points out how nearly this order of development in the chick agrees with what he had observed in mammalian and particularly in human embryos. He notes the bifid apex of the foetal heart in man and the equal thickness of the ventricles, the soft cartilages which represent the future bones, the large amount of liquor amnii and absence of placenta which characterize the foetus in the third months: in the fourth the position of the testes in the abdomen, an the uterus with its Fallopian tubes resembling the uterus bicornis of the sheep; the large thymus; the caecum, small as in the adult, not forming a second stomach as in the pig, the horse, and the hare; the lobulated kidneys, like those of the seal ("vitulo," sc. Marino) and porpoise, and the large suprarenal veins, not much smaller than those of the kidneys (li.-lvi). He failed, however, to trace the connexion of the urachus with the bladder. In the following chapters (lxiii.-lxvii.) he described the process of generation in the fallow deer or the roe. After again insisting that all animals arise from ova, that a "conception" is an internal egg and an egg an extruded conception, he goes on to describe the uterus of the doe, the process of impregnation, and the subsequent development of the foetus and its membranes, the punctum saliens, the cotyledons of the placenta, and the "uterine milk," to which Professor Turner has lately recalled attention. The treatise concludes with detached notes on the placenta, parturition, and allied subjects.

Harvey’s other Writing and Medical Practice.—The remaining writings of Harvey which are extant are unimportant. A complete list of them will be found below, together with the titles of those which we know to be lost. Of these the most important were probably that on respiration, and the records of post-mortem examinations. From the following passage (De Partu, . 550) it seems that he had a notion of respiration being connected rather with the production of animals heat than, as then generally supposed, with the cooling of the blood. "Haec qui diligenter perpenderit, naturamque aeris diligenter introspexerit, facile opinor fatebitur eundem nec refrigerationis gratia nec in pabulum animalibus concede. Haec autem obiter duntaxat de respiratione diximus, proprio loco de eadem forsitan copiosius disceptaturi."

Of Harvey as a practicing physician we know very little. Aubrey tell us that "he paid his visits on horseback with a footcloth, his man following on foot, as the fashion then was." He adds—"Though all of his profession would allow him to be an excellent anatomist. I never heard any that admired his therapeutic way. I knew several practitioners that would not have given threepence for one of his bills" (the apothecaries used to collect physicians’ prescriptions and sell of publish them to their own profit), "ad that a man could hardly tell by his bill what he did aim at." However this may have been,—and rational therapeutics was impossible when the foundation-stone of physiology had only just been laid,—we know that Harvey was an active practitioners, performing such important surgical operations as the removal of a breast, and he turned his obstetric experience to account in his book on generation. Some hood practical precepts as to the conduct of labour are quoted by Willoughby, a contemporary. He also took notes of the anatomy of disease; these unfortunately perished with his as a forerunner of Morgagni; for Harvey saw that pathology is but a branch of physiology, and like it must depend first on accurate anatomy. He speaks strongly to this purpose in his first epistle to Riolanus: "Sicut enim sanorum et boni habitus corporum dissection plurimum as philosophiam et rectam physiologiam facit, ita corporum morbosorum et cachecticorum inspection potissimum ad pathologiam philosophicam." The only specimen we have his observations in morbid anatomy is his account of the post-mortem examination made by order of the king on the body of the famous Thomas Parr, who died in 1635, at the reputed age of 152. Harvey insists on the value of physiological truths for there own sake, independently of their immediate utility; but he himself gives us an interesting example of the practical application of his theory of the circulation in the cure of a large tumour by tying the arteries which supplied it with blood (De Generat., Exerc. xix.).

The following is believed to a be a complete list of all the known writings of Harvey, published and unpublished:—

Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordiset Sanguinis, 4to, Frankfort-on-the-Maine, 1628; Exercitationes duae Anatomicae de Circulatione Sanguinis, ad Johannem Riolanum, filium, Parisiensem, Cambridge, 1649; Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium, quibus acced unt quaedam de Partu, de Membranis ac Humoribus Uteri, et de Conceptione, 4to, Lond., 1651; Anatomia Thomae Parr, first published in the treatise of Dr John Betts, De Ortu et Natura Sanguinis, Svo, Lond., 1669. Letter—(1) to Caspar Hoffmann of Nuremberg, May 1636; (2) to Schlegel of Hamburg, April 1651; (3) three to Giovanni Nardi of Florence, July 1651, Dec. 1653. 1653, and Nov. 1655; (4) two to Dr Morrison of Paris, May 1652; (5) two to Dr Horst of Darmstadt, Feb 1654-5 and July 1655; (6) to Dr Vlackveld of Haarlem, May 1656. His letters to Hoffmann and Schlegel are on the circulation; those to Morrison, Horst, and Vlackveld refer to the discovery of the lacteals; the two to Nardi are short letters of friendship. All these letters were published by Sir George Ent in his collected works (Leyden, 1687). Of two MS. letters, one on official business to the secretary Dorchester was printed by Dr Aveling, with a facsimile of the crabbed handwriting (Memorials of Harvey, 1875), and the other, about a patient, appears in Dr Willis’s Life of Harvey, 1878. Praelectiones anatomicae universalis per me Gul. Harveium medium Londinensem, anat. Et chir, professorem, an. Dom, 1616, aetat. 37,—MS notes of his Lumleian lectures in Latin—are in the British Museum library; they are almost illegible, but were partly deciphered and photograph of one of the pages taken by Dr Sieveking; for an account of them see his Harveian Lecture for 1877. A second MS. has been discovered in the British Museum, entitled Gulielmus Harveius de Musculis, Motu Locali, &c., and an account of it was published by Dr George Paget (Notice of an unpublished MS. of Harvey, Lond., (1850). The following treatises, or notes towards them, were lost either in the pillaging of Harvey’s house, or perhaps in the fire of London, which destroyed the old College of Physicians—A Treatise on Respiration, promised, and probably at least in part completed (pp. 82, 550, ed. 1766); Observationes de usu Lienis; Observationes de motu locali, perhaps identical with the above-mentioned manuscript; Tractatum physiologicum; Anatomia medicalis (apparently notes of morbid anatomy); De Generatione Insectorum. The fine 4to edition of Harvey’s Works published by the Royal College of Physicians in1766, was superintended by Dr Mark Akenside; it contains the two treatises, the account of the post-mortem examination of old Parr, and the six letters enumerated above. A translation of this volume by Dr Willis, with Harvey’s will, was published by the Sydenham Society, 8vo, Lond., 1649.

The following are the principal biographies of Harvey—Aubrey’s Letters of Eminent Persons, &c. (vol. ii., Lond., 1813), first published in 1685, the only contemporary account; in Bayle’s Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, 1698 and 1720 (Eng. Ed., 1738); in the Biographia Britannica, and in Aitken’s Biographical Memoirs; the Latin Life by Dr Lawrence, prefixed to the college edition of Harvey’s Works in 1766; memoir in Lives of British Physicians, Lond., 1830; a Life by Dr Robert Willis, founded on that by Lawrence, and prefixed to his English edition of Harvey in 1847; the much enlarged Life by the same author, published in 1878; the biography by Dr Munk in the Roll of the College of Physicians, 2d. ed., vol. i., 1879.

The literature which has arisen on the great discovery of Harvey, on his methods and his merits, would fill a library. The most important contemporary writings have been mentioned above. The following list gives some of the most remarkable in modern times:—the article in Bayle’s dictionary quoted above; Anatomincal Lectures, by Wm. Hunter, M.D., 1784; Sprengell, Geschichte der Arzneikunde, Halle, 1800, vol. iv.; Flourens, Histoire de la Circulation, 1854; Lewis, Physiology of Common Life, 1859, vol. i. pp. 291-345; Ceradini, La Scoperta della Circolazione del Sangue, Milan, 1876; Tollin, Die Entdeckung des Blutkreislaufs durch Michael Secret, Jena, 1876; Kirchner, Die Entdeckung des Blutkreislaufs, Berlin, 1878; Willis, in his life Life of Harvey; Wharton Jones, "Lecture on the Circulation of the Blood," Lancet for Oct. 25 and Nove. 1, 1879; an the Harveian Orations, especially those by Dr Sieveking, Dr Guy, and Prof. Rolleston. (P. H. P-.S)



Footnotes

FOOTNOTES (page 502)

(1) A venerable MS. Notebook in Harvey’s own crabbed handwriting was discovered only lately in the British Museum, with the title "Praelectiones anatomicae," &c. this, so far as it has been deciphered, contains the germs of his great discovery.

(2) "Ignoscant milhi niveae animae, si, summarum injuriarum memor, levem gemitum effudero. Doloris mihi haec causa est: cum, inter nuperos nostros tumultus et bella plusquam civilian, serenissimum regem (idque non solum senatus permissione sed et jussu) sequor, rapaces quaedam manus non modo aedium mearum supellectilem, omnem expilarunt, sed etiam, quae mihi causa gravior querimoniae, adversaria mea, multorum annorum laboribus parta, e museo meo summoverunt. Quo factum est ut observations plurimae, praesertim de generatione insectorum, cum republicae literariae (ausim dicere) detrimento, perierint."—De Gen., Ex lxviii. To this loss Cowley refers—

"O cursed war! who can forgive thee this?
Houses and towns may rise again,
And ten times easier ‘tis
To rebuild Paul’s than any work of his."



FOOTNOTES (page 503)

(1) This is the date usually given according to the college annals. Granger’s Biographical History of England makes it June 30; Hamey, a contemporary, June 15; while Dr Lawrence, following the inscription on the tomb, gives June 3, 1658.

(2) Indeed the same word, GREEK, occurs in the Hippocratic writings, and was held by Van der Linder to prove that to the father of medicine himself, and not to Columbus or Caesalpinus, belonged the laurels of Harvey.

(3) Realdus Columbus (De Re Anatomica, 1559) formally denies the muscularity of the heart, yet correctly teaches that blood and spirits pass from the right to the left ventricle, not through the septum, but through the lungs, "quod nemo hactenus aut animadvertit aut scriptum reliquit." The fact that Harvey quotes Columbus and not Servetus is explained by the almost entire destruction of the writings of the latter, which are now among the rarest curiosities. The great anatomist Fabricius, Harvey’s teacher at Padua, described the valves of the veins more perfectly than had Sylvius. Ruini, in his treatise on the Anatomy and Diseases of the Horse (1590), taught that the left ventricle sends blood and vital spirits to all parts of the body except the lungs—the ordinary Galenical doctrine. Yet on the strength of this phrase Professor Ercolani has actually put up a tablet in the veterinary school at Bologna to Ruini as the discoverer of the circulation of the blood! The claims of Caesalpinus, a more plausible claimant to Harvey’s laurels, are scarcely better founded. In his Quaestiones Peripateticae (1571) he followed Servetus and Columbus in describing what we now know as the pulmonary "circulation" under that name, and this is the only foundation for the assertion (first made in Bayle’s dictionary) that Caesalpinus knew "the circulation of the blood." He is even behind Servetus, for he only allows part of the blood of the right ventricle to go round by this "circuits"; some, he conceives, passes through the hypothetical pores in the septum, and the rest by the superior cava to the head and arms, by the inferior to the rest by the superior cava to the head and arms, by the inferior to the rest of the body—"Hanc esse venarum utilitatem ut omnes partes corporis sanguinem pro nutrimento deferant. Ex dextro ventr° cordis vena cava sanguinem crassiorem, in quo calor intensus est magis, ex altero autem ventr°, sanguinem temperatissimum ac sincerrissum habente, egreditur aorta." Caesalpinus seems to have had no original views on the subject; all that he writes is copied from Galen or from Servetus except some erroneous observations of his own. His greatest merit was as a botanist; and no claim to the "discovery of the circulation" was made by him or by his contemporaries. When it was made, Haller decided conclusively against it. The fact that an inscription was lately placed on the bust of Caesalpinus at Rome, which states that he preceded others in recognizing and demonstrating "the general circulation of the blood," is only a proof of the blindness of misplaced national vanity.

FOOTNOTES (page 505)

1 So in Exerc. Liv." "Superior itaque et divinior opiefx, quam est homo, videtur hominem fabricare et conservare, et nobillior artifex. Quam gallus, pullum ex ovo producere. Nempe agnoscimys Deum, Creatorem summum atque omnipotentem, in cunctorum animallium fabrics ubique praesentem esse, et in operibus suis quasi digito monstrari; cujus in procreatione pulli instrumenta sint gallus et gallina…Nee eniquam sane haec attributa convenient nisi omnipotenti rerum Principio, quocunque demum nominee idipsum appellare lubuerit; sive Montem divinam cum Aristotle, sive cum Platene Animal Mundi, aut cum allis Naturam naturantem. vei cum ethnicis Saturnum aut Iovem; vel potius (ut nos decet) Creatorem ac Patrem omnium quae in coelis et terries, a quo animalia corumque origins dependent, cujusque nutu sive effato flunt et generantur omnia



The above article was written by Philip H. Pye-Smith, M.D.: F.R.S.; Physician, Guy's Hospital, London; author of An Introduction to the Study of Diseases o the Skin, etc.




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