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183

DR. WILLIAM HARVEY.*

[1578—1657.]

THIS celebrated physician was the eldest son of Thomas Harvey, a gentleman of Folkstone in Kent, at which place he was born April 1, 1578.7 At ten years of age, he was sent to the Grammar School, Canterbury; whence, in May 1593, he removed to Caius College, Cambridge. After spending six years in the study of logic and natural philosophy, as a proper foundation for that of physic, he travelled abroad; attended at Padua the lectures of Fabricius of Acquapendente on anatomy, of Minadous on medical pharmacy, and of Casserius on chirurgery; and, having taken under those distinguished professors the degree of M. D. at twenty-four, returned to his native country, and graduating at his own University, immediately commenced practice in London. In his thirtieth year, he was chosen a Fellow of the College of Physicians, and soon afterward was elected Physician to St. Bartholomew's Hospital.

In 1615, he was appointed to read the anatomy

* AUTHORITIES. Biographia Britannica, British Biography, and the Life prefixed to his works in 1766 by Dr. Laurence.

+ Chalmers says, ' April 2, 1569;' which makes his age at his death eighty-eight.

and chirurgery-lectures founded by Lumley and Cald, wall. And it was probably upon this occasion, that he first proposed his sentiments concerning the office of the Heart, and the Circulation of the Blood. For, in an anatomical treatise drawn up about that time, and still extant in his own hand-writing, the chief principles of his great discovery are to be found. In his first lectures, however, he only hinted his sentiments upon the subject : but when he had subsequently, with a degree of patience and caution peculiarly characteristic of sound philosophy, examined his hypothesis more thoroughly, and confirmed it by numerous and repeated experiments, he in 1628 published at Frankfort (for the sake of more prompt diffusion over the Continent) his · Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus. Of this book, whether we consider the importance of it's subject, the clearness of it's method, or the strength of it's reasoning, we may truly assert, that there is scarcely any treatise on a similar topic to be compared with it.*

The discovery was of the highest importance in the whole art of physic. But it was not only the destroyer of the Hydra, who • found envy only to be subdued by death. No man, who has at any time attained eminence, has escaped the attacks of that malignant fiend. Improvements in arts or

* It had a double dedication; to Charles I., and to the College of Physicians. In the latter he observes, that he had frequently before in his Anatomical Lectures declared his new opinion concerning the motion and use of the Heart and the Circulation of the Blood, and for above nine years

had confirmed and illustrated it before the College by reasons and arguments grounded upon ocular demonstration, and defended it from the objections of the most skilful anatomists.'

sciences have, generally, been viewed with a jealous eye by the bulk of their professors: and accordingly this new theory brought upon it's author many hostilities, even among the members of his own profession. Their several attempts to refute it were, indeed, without success : but some of his antagonists seem to have been mean enough to endeavour to obstruct him in his private practice; for he complained, it appears, to one of his friends, * that he was much less frequently called to visit the sick, after he had published his book.

His adversaries may be divided into two large classes : of which one endeavoured to prove his hypothesis false; while the other, admitting it to be wellfounded, asserted that he was not it's original discoverer. Among his earliest opponents, Æmylius Parisanus, a Venetian, was answered by Sir George Ent;t between whom and Harvey subsisted a great friendship, in his “ Apologia pro Sanguinis Circulatione.' To the attack of Riolanus a French anatomist, who sent him his "Enchiridion Anatomicum,' he himself replied, in his · Exercitationes Anatomice Duæ de Circulatione Sanguinis, ad J. Riolanum J. Filium.'

Of the second division, Vander Linden | took con

* This Letter is preserved in a MS, extant in the Library of the Royal Society, entitled • Memoirs of several Remarks in the County of Wilts, &c. by Mr. John Aubrey, R. S. S. 1685.'

† This gentleman, of a Dutch family, was born at Sandwich, studied at Padua, became President of the College of Physicians, and was knighted by Charles II, ·

# He published an edition of Hippocrates about the middle of the seventeenth century. In later days, Dr. William Hunter seems to have stood alone in his attempt to depreciate Harvey's

siderable pains to prove, that it was known to Hippocrates : some again contended, that it belonged to Galen:* others claimed it for Michael Servetus; and a fourth set for Columbus, an anatomist; while Bayle confidently affirmed, with a copious adduction of quotations, that it was known to Cæsalpinus.f The

merit. See the Two Introductory Lectures to his last Course, 4to., 1784.

* This was chiefly done by Primirosius, a Frenchman of Scottish extraction, and a pupil of Riolanus; as he himself asserted, youwasimas, ingenii scilicet exercendi causâ ! Of him, however, Harvey disdained to take any notice. Plempius, a Professor of Louvain, more candid than dealers in controversy usually are, after convicting himself by his own experiments, became a convert to his opponent.

+ It has been clearly shown by Dr. Freind, in his · History of Physic,' as well as by others, that the passages cited in no respect answer the purpose for which they were produced. To Nemesius Bishop of Emissa likewise, who wrote a Treatise concerning the Nature of Man' near the end of the fourth century, his Oxford editor ascribes the discovery, not only of the system of the bile (which Sylvius de la Boe, with so much vanity, arrogated to himself) but also of the Circulation of the Blood : but Freind after producing the passage referred to, expressly affirms, that this venerable writer had no idea of it whatever. He admits, indeed, that Columbus most clearly (and much more fully than his contemporary Servetus) shows, how by the contraction and dilatation of the heart and the mechanism of it's vessels the blood circulates through the lungs from the Cava to the Aorta, and thence into all the parts of the body; but he proves, farther, that though an excellent anatomist, he did not in the least comprehend the communication between the arteries and the veins: for “ beside that he assigns the carrying of vital spirits only to the arteries, in another discourse he tells us, that the veins convey the blood from the liver to all the parts of the body!” “ Cæsalpinus, it is true, drops the word Anastomosis (copying perhaps from Servetus, De Trinitate, V., whose word it is), by which he supposes the native heat may pass from the arteries to the veins; but this in the time of sleep

honour of the discovery was, also, attributed to the

word he uses,

only: and from the sentence immediately following it is plain, that he had no notion of the circular progress of the blood; for he makes it only move like an • Euripus,' the very in a sort of undulating motion from one extremity of the vessel to the other, which is in fact the precise idea Hippocrates himself had of it; and Acquapendente, in direct terms, describes the blood as circulating by way of flux and reflux in the arteries. Were we, indeed, to reason from what these writers say concerning the Circulation of the Blood, both through the heart and through the lungs into the Aorta, the conclusion would demonstrably be, that the blood which goes into the Aorta must return back into the Cava: else how could the constant current, which by their own account runs through the heart and lungs, be maintained ? But it is as demonstrable, that they did not perceive this consequence, though naturally and necessarily following from their own principles. Neither is this so much to be wondered at: for it was as possible that Columbus and Cæsalpinus should go so far and no farther, as that Acquapendente should discover and describe the valves of the veins, and yet

be at the same time ignorant of the true use of them! To this discovery, however, of his great master Harvey himself ingenuously attributed the first glimpse which he had of his own: and thus was hé enabled to extend the theory of the circulation, which, as far as related to the transmission of the blood through the lungs, was previously known by many, to the whole of the system.

Servetus, whose fifth book on the Trinity has been alluded to above, for the purpose of illustrating this dark and difficult subject, observes : “ Vitalis spiritus in sinistro cordis ventriculo suam originem habet, juvantibus maximè pulmonibus ad ipsius generationem. Est spiritus tenuis caloris vi elaboratus, flavo colore, ignea potentiâ, ut sit quasi ex puriore sanguine lucens vapor, substantiam in se continens aquæ, aëris, et ignis. Generatur ex factâ in pulmonibus mixtione inspirati äeris cum elaborato subtili sanguine, quem

dexter ventriculus cordis sinistro communicat. Fit autem con municatio hæc non per parietem cordis medium, ut vulgò creditur: sed magno artificio à dextro cordis ventriculo, longo per pulmones ductu, agitatur sanguis subtilis, à pulmonibus præparatur, favus ejicitur, et à Venâ Arteriosa ad Arteriam Venosam transfiinditur" ;

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