William Harvey

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Harvey, William,

1578–1657, English physician considered by many to have laid the foundation of modern medicine, b. Folkestone, studied at Cambridge, M.D. Univ. of Padua, 1602. Returning to London, he became a physician of St. Bartholomew's Hospital and a lecturer at the College of Physicians, and he was later appointed court physician. Harvey was first to demonstrate the function of the heart and the complete circulation of the blood, a feat especially remarkable because it was accomplished without the aid of a microscope. Acceptance of his theories was slow in coming, and it was not until 1827 that they were fully substantiated. He also contributed greatly to the advance of comparative anatomy and embryology. His famous Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus [On the Movement of the Heart and Blood in Animals] was published in 1628.


See the translation of his writings by K. J. Franklin (1963); biography by G. L. Keynes (1966); study by G. Whitteridge (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Harvey, William


Born Apr. 1, 1578, in Folkestone, Kent; died June 3, 1657, in London. English physician, physiologist, and embryologist.

Harvey continued his studies at Padua after graduating from Cambridge in 1597. In 1602 he received a diploma as doctor of medicine from the University of Padua. After his return to England (London) he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (1607). As chief physician and surgeon in the Hospital of St. Bartholomew, Harvey was the founder not only of the theory of blood circulation but also of all modern physiology and embryology. He was the first to prove experimentally that in the animal body an unchanging, relatively small amount of blood is in constant movement through a closed path as a result of pressure created by contractions of the heart. He described the respiratory (pulmonary) and systemic circulations. In 1628 he published An Anatomical Treatise on the Movement of the Heart and Blood in Animals, in which he set forth in final form his theory of circulation, a theory which ran counter to the doctrine that had prevailed since the times of the Roman physician Galen and which provoked fierce attacks on Harvey by scientists and churchmen. In 1651 he published his treatise On the Generation of Living Creatures, in which he summarized the results of his many years of research on embryonic development in invertebrates and vertebrates, including birds and mammals. According to Harvey, plants as well as animals begin their development from an egg.


Anatomicheskoe issledovanie o dvizhenii serdtsa i krovi u zhivotnykh, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.


Bykov, K. M. Uil’iam Garvei i otkrytie krovoobrashcheniia. Moscow, 1957.
Parin, V. V. “Osnovopolozhnik ucheniia o krovoobrashchenii: K trekhsotletiiu so dnia smerti Uil’iama Garveia.” Priroda, 1957, no. 12.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In all, the story of William Harvey is a microcosm of science and its context.
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William Harvey (1578-1657): discovered the circulation of blood.
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