William Harvey and the circulation of Blood

William Harvey

William Harvey became Royal Physician to James I and Charles I. He was a leading member of the Royal College of Surgeons and trained at the famous university in Padua, Italy. Harvey is best known for his work on the circulation of blood. He discovered the function of the heart and the manner in which blood flows. This knowledge helps surgeons and enabled later progress on medicines.

William Harvey

Harvey’s contribution to medical knowledge was great but the impact of his work was not immediate. In 1615 he conducted a comparative study on animals and humans. He realised that many of his findings on animals could be applied to Humans. Through this study he was able to prove that Galen had been wrong to suggest that blood is constantly being consumed. Instead, he argued, correctly, that blood was constantly pumped around the body by the heart. Harvey went on to identify the difference between arteries and veins and noted that blood changes colour as it passes through the lungs. Harvey also identified the way in which valves work in veins and arteries to regulate the circulation of blood.

William Harvey travelled to Italy to train as a doctor. Qualifying from the University at Padua, aged 24, he returned to England to practice. His first role was as physician at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Here he examined patients on a weekly basis and prescribed as seen fit. This was a post that he retained throughout his working life.

Harvey was soon asked to give the Lumleian Lectures. These were specialist lectures on anatomy designed to spread knowledge. Following that appointment, in 1615, his status rose quite quickly. So much so that in 1618 he was appointed as Physician to King James I.

Medicine in the RenaissanceAndreas VesaliusWilliam HarveyThe Great Plague an inquiryWorksheet: VesaliusWorksheet: GCSE exam practise, William Harvey

Medicine Through time – Resources for Medicine Through Time – Prehistoric Medicine – Ancient Egyptian Medicine – Ancient Greek Medicine – Medicine in the Roman Empire – Medieval Medicine – Renaissance Medicine – Public Health in the Industrial Revolution – Fight against infectious disease – Modern Medicine


Love Learning?

Subscribe to our Free Newsletter, Complete with Exclusive History Content