Sunday, May 16, 2010

Willam Harvey - circulation of blood

William Harvey was born April 1, 1578, in Folkestone, Kent, England. His father, Thomas Harvey, was a successful farmer and merchant. He was the oldest of seven boys.He attended the University of Padua in Italy from 1599 to 1602, receiving an M.D. in 1602. He studied with Hieronymus Fabricius, who was a well regarded anatomist and had observed the one-way valves in blood vessels.
Harvey returned to England and married Elizabeth Browne, whose father was a physician to Queen Elizabeth I. He became a physician at St. Bartholomew's Hospital and lectured at the College of Physicians.With the death of the Queen in 1603, James I ascended the throne. Harvey was appointed a physician to the court in 1618.
Harvey began investigating his theory that blood circulated throughout the body in 1615. The conventional wisdom of the day was that the liver converted food into blood and the various parts of the body consumed the blood.
 Harvey believed that direct observation was the correct way to draw conclusions about scientific facts. He kept careful records of his experiments. He did not record his findings until he could prove them. This practice became known as the scientific method, and Harvey receives much credit for promoting its use. He dissected live animals and the bodies of executed criminals. He saw that the heart acted as a pump, pushing the blood throughout the body. Harvey saw that the one-way valves described by Fabricius meant the blood could only flow in one direction.

Finally, in 1628, Harvey published his book, An Anatomical Exercise Concerning the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals. He dedicated the book to King Charles I, who had sponsored much of the work Harvey had done. The book went on sale at a book fair in Frankfurt, Germany. The book received a mixed response.

In 1651, Harvey wrote that animals did not spontaneously generate, that life began from an egg. He theorized the joining of a sperm and egg as the beginning of life. Two centuries would pass before microscopes were capable of seeing a mammalian egg.

Many of his papers were lost when a fire ripped through the library at the College of Physicians, but some remain and are on exhibit at the British Museum.
William Harvey died June 3, 1657. William Harvey Hospital in Ashford is named for him, as well as the Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone.

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