Harvey, William



William Harvey (1578-1657), the father of modern physiology, was the first researcher to discovery the circulation of blood through the body. Although we take this knowledge for granted, until Harvey's time, people were not aware that the blood travels through the body and is pumped through its course by the heart.

Harvey was born in England in 1578, the eldest of seven sons of a farmer. While five of the other Harvey brothers became London merchants, William studied arts and medicine at Cambridge University, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1597. He then earned his medical degree in 1602 from the famous medical school at Padua, Italy. Returning to London, Harvey began what became a very successful medical practice while also working in medical research.

William Harvey.
William Harvey.

In 1609 Harvey was appointed to the staff of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1607. Harvey's ideas about circulation of the blood were first publicly expressed in lectures he gave in 1616. Harvey became court physician to King James I (ruled England from 1603-1625) in 1618 and then to Charles I (ruled England from 1625-1649) in 1625, a post he held until Charles was beheaded in 1649. Charles provided Harvey with deer from the royal parks for his medical research, and Harvey remained loyal to Charles even during the Cromwellian Civil War (1642-1660), in which the Parliamentarians who fought against the King ransacked Harvey's rooms and destroyed many of his medical notes and papers. Harvey retired at the end of the Civil War a widower. He lived with his various brothers and died of a stroke in 1657.

Harvey's Contribution

Harvey's great contribution to medicine was his revolutionary discovery of the circulation of blood. By dissecting both living and dead animals, Harvey became convinced that the ancient Greek anatomist Galen's ideas about blood movement must be wrong, particularly the ideas that blood was formed in the liver and absorbed by the body, and that blood flowed through the septum (dividing wall) of the heart. Harvey first studied the heartbeat, establishing the existence of the pulmonary (heart-lung-heart) circulation process and noting the one-way flow of blood. When he also realized how much blood was pumped by the heart, he realized there must be a constant amount of blood flowing through the arteries and returning through the veins of the heart, a continuing circular flow.

Harvey Publishes His Findings

Harvey published this radical new concept of blood circulation in 1628. It provoked immediate controversy and hostility from the medical community of the time, contradicting as it did the usually unquestioned teachings of Galen. The most virulent critic, Jean Riolan, scorned Harvey as a "circulator," an insulting term for a traveling quack. Harvey calmly and quietly defended his work, and although his medical practice suffered for a time, his ideas become widely accepted by the time of his death. The discovery of capillaries by Marcello Malpighi in 1661 provided factual evidence to confirm Harvey's theory of blood circulation.

In addition to his blood circulation research, Harvey was one of the first to study embryology (the study of reproduction in its earliest stages) by observing the development of the chick in the egg. He performed many dissections of mammal embryos at various stages of formation. From these experiments Harvey was able to formulate the first new theory of animal generation since antiquity, emphasizing the primacy of the egg, even in mammals. Prior to Harvey's work, it was thought that the male sperm was the primary source of new life, and that the egg was simply an empty home, so to speak, for the sperm to develop.

Thanks to Harvey's willingness to abandon old wisdom and observe and test for himself, we have our modern understanding of physiology.



User Contributions:

Breann Maxwell
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Sep 13, 2006 @ 9:09 am
Can you tell me the significance of Mr. Harvey's discoveries? Also, how have these discoveries changed modern day beliefs and medicinal practices?
michael wright
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Oct 23, 2006 @ 4:04 am
i learnt loads but i still need to know what methods he used to prove that blood flows one way
Charlie-Louise Davenport
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Nov 5, 2006 @ 9:09 am
it doesnt have what i was lookin for and that was what was harvey's ideas.
but otherwise good.
Nathan
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Dec 5, 2006 @ 6:06 am
Thanks, this helped me a lot with my school research, cheers.
katiebear
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Dec 9, 2006 @ 1:13 pm
it helped me a lot with what i needed for my report.thanks!
patrick garity
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Dec 13, 2006 @ 9:09 am
he has changed modern medicine, by discovering how the blood flows throughout our body. If we did not know this, we would still be blood letting and using supersticious remedies. so in a sense, he has given us a new way to look at things, a new way to study anatomy and a theory, based on facts, on how the blood flows, peace
Rachael
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Jan 21, 2007 @ 4:16 pm
This was really helpful for my report. I like how all of the information is clear and you are able to follow it. Sometimes when I look on the internet for information on a topic, the information is very confusing and out of order, Thanks so much!
anoynmous
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Apr 15, 2007 @ 4:16 pm
can someone tell me if william harvey had any problems with society, his value in society and his inventions or innovations?
Nicole Misener
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Oct 16, 2007 @ 3:15 pm
How did his contributions help society???
Other than that it gave loads of info.!!
Ardit
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Apr 24, 2008 @ 10:22 pm
cool, it helped me a lot w/ my world history. Good information.
thea
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Oct 3, 2008 @ 11:11 am
Could you say maybe what animals he dissected? it would really help with my project
Fabian
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Jan 12, 2009 @ 1:13 pm
Many thanks for writing this article I found it very useful in my search for his contributions to our modern-day world.
Dr Jinks
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Sep 21, 2009 @ 1:13 pm
This should be enough for my homework, Thankees =P
Rosalie
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Apr 12, 2010 @ 10:10 am
Hey, this is really good for my report in history, but I think that my teacher would like to know what impact did this discovery had on the british population and in all the world at that time. What changed in their lifes after this discovery ? Thanks a lot.
connor
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Apr 26, 2010 @ 5:17 pm
i was wondering what impacted him and what did his discovery do to help the world
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Jun 8, 2010 @ 11:11 am
cool it helped me a lot
gave me a lot info for my science project
eric
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Aug 9, 2010 @ 3:15 pm
this really help me finding ideas for my science project thank you for the people who made this sight
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Sep 9, 2010 @ 4:16 pm
Thank You very much I really enjoyed reading this it was one of many that helped me with my school research work. :)
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Sep 23, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
I'm a 9th grad student so I needed more information about these Biologist, starting from their contribution dawn to the others.
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Nov 16, 2010 @ 10:10 am
this helped me a lot with my research project thanks for the help.
Chloe
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Mar 14, 2011 @ 8:20 pm
Thanks for the help! It's just what I needed (plus more).
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Jun 13, 2011 @ 5:05 am
Harvey william is the one who studied heartbeat. . He make mechanics for blood circulation ..
Doremi
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Sep 23, 2011 @ 5:05 am
What was the impact of William Harvey's foundings to the 17th century?
random person
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Oct 17, 2011 @ 3:03 am
This article is awesome! But what is the theory William Harvay made, I still don't understand.
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Nov 5, 2011 @ 8:08 am
it tells us about william harvey but not his theorys and findings
Emily
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Dec 15, 2011 @ 6:18 pm
This is really good information, but I was also wondering how his discovery contributed to modern medicine. I know it would be much less evolved, but please, someone, specify how did this contribution help?
renuka
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Apr 10, 2012 @ 1:01 am
THANKS FOR SUCH VALUABLE INFORMATION ITS HELPS ME A LOT IN PREPARING MY PROJECT
angela
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May 17, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
Did this work closely with any other person of intertest? answer that!
Shakeel
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Aug 5, 2012 @ 9:09 am
Thanks,this valuable information helps me for my assignment
vani
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Oct 3, 2012 @ 9:09 am
nice and i want pics of william harveys invention pcs (blood circulation) for my project.
Lucy
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Oct 4, 2012 @ 3:15 pm
Thankyou this helped a lot! I was just wondering if you knew What parts of the circulatory theory were changed when harvey's prediction was proved right? Thankss:-)
William Harvey
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Oct 15, 2012 @ 6:06 am
Hey you forgot how did i prove my researches were real !
juan frausto recardo
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Oct 24, 2012 @ 1:13 pm
thanks for helping we with my school resarch i like this store very much
ruby Matias
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Nov 4, 2012 @ 8:08 am
Please provide scientific discourse/s or comparative analysis of william Harvey's vis-a-vis Galen, FAbricius and Vesalius medical findings on blood circulation?
charan
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Jan 23, 2013 @ 10:10 am
It helped me a lot in my school project and thanks to william harvey for his contriution
Lydia Soto
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Apr 12, 2013 @ 10:10 am
I am in 5th Grade and I have to do a Hands On Project on How Blood Circulates. I was thinking of drawing a picture of the human body showing the heart and all the veins, but that seems boring. Do you have any other ideas? Thanks!
shelley
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Jul 3, 2013 @ 8:20 pm
it helped in my school report because i'll be acting like william harvey so thanks to william and his contibution .
Tiger
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Apr 30, 2015 @ 2:02 am
This Didn't help me that much... But i still got a B in my speech about william Harvey! Thanks!
luvdeveca
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Jun 9, 2015 @ 6:06 am
THANKS TO WILLIAM HARVEYS CONTRIBUTIONS!!! IT HELPED ME A LOT IN MY BIOLIGY SUBJECT!
livvy pug
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Sep 15, 2015 @ 1:13 pm
that helped me with my homework yay!
I found it really interesting as well and I will probably use this website again
ava
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Sep 29, 2015 @ 12:12 pm
hi i was wondering what his theory was to start him off with finding this fantasic discovery?!
Yolanda
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Oct 6, 2015 @ 10:22 pm
William Harvey research William Harvey significant contributions in the shaping of modern medicine
Yolanda
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Oct 12, 2015 @ 12:00 am
William Harvey research William Harvey significant contributions in the shaping of modern medicine
Bob
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Nov 5, 2015 @ 5:05 am
Very good info it was really help full for my reaserch
trisa
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Mar 19, 2016 @ 8:08 am
i want to know about the microscope which was developed after harvey dies for his half left reproduction research
wyatt
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Apr 8, 2016 @ 7:07 am
this was awesome I learned a lot of important stuff.
Kayla
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Apr 15, 2016 @ 7:07 am
thank you so much this info really helped me with Harvey's imapct!
Ashley
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Oct 12, 2016 @ 5:17 pm
it did not really help i still need to understand why him find out about our blood was so useful to use
and what other things did he achieve.
but thanks any way
sophia
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Oct 30, 2016 @ 8:08 am
how did his discovers help people in them times ? also how does it impact on us now and how did he show people his discover was right
ashhad
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Dec 5, 2016 @ 6:06 am
IT NOT BAD BUT NORMAL.BIT IT IS VERY EASY AND VERY LITTLE INFORMATION ABOUT WILLIAM HARVEY
amos joseph
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Feb 3, 2017 @ 1:01 am
Thx Mr harvey , studied a lot about human and made contribution on my today's carrier
Thanx a lot .
Jake
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Feb 13, 2017 @ 4:04 am
Hi there, please can you tell me more about how William Harveys theories impacted on the worlds health today. I did not find this website very helpful and i really thought this would help me alot but my expectation were propably very wrong and if you would please state in your website everything Harvey did and what the impacts were in both a negative and positive way.
Thank You very Much
Yaz
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Feb 26, 2017 @ 1:13 pm
In other articles that I have read, he was the oldest of 9 children. His family was somewhat wealthy because his dad was a businessman and mayor.
martha
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Sep 7, 2017 @ 1:13 pm
How dose William Harvey discovery impact us today?
shania
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Nov 27, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
how did william harvey die and what from?I need to know
Khadijah
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Nov 28, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
What other key Renaissance developments did he use???
Uche
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Nov 28, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
Please I want to know about other contributors too. Thank you so much for this article.
Zainab
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Jan 22, 2018 @ 8:08 am
Thanks!it helped me alot in my work but please could you tell more about his contributions?
Leah
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May 9, 2018 @ 1:13 pm
Anyone know the limitations to his work? No google searched article has given me any, nor my medical history textbooks that are supposed to cover all the questions.

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