Renaissance - William Harvey

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  • Renaissance Medicine Individuals - William Harvey
    • Born in 1578 in England. He studied medicine at Padua University between 1598 and 1602.
    • Harvey's study of beating hearts showed him that the heart was pushing out large volumes of blood. He proved each push happened at the same time as the pulse which could only be found at the wrist and neck.
    • He became the physician to James I and Charles I.
    • Harvey believed in the importance of careful observation, dissection and experiments in order to improve his knowledge of the body.
      • Harvey's theory was met with controversy as it claimed that there was a fixed amount of blood in the body, which meant there was no need for blood letting to release excess. Nevertheless, Harvey published his findings in his book 'On the Motion of the Heart' in 1628.
    • Was influenced by the work of Vesalius as Harvey, too, was interested in human anatomy.
      • At the time, Galen's theory of the function of the heart was widely accepted, despite the fact the Vesalius had disproved most of his work.
    • In 1615, Harvey began work on the theory that blood circulated around the body. The new invention of the water pump helped his discovery as he believed that the heart and the water pump worked in the same way.
      • Harvey wanted to study the body as a living system, so he needed to dissect things that were still alive. He chose to study cold - blooded animals like frogs because their heart beats slowly. This enabled him to see each separate expansion and contraction. He also dissected dead criminals to ensure that the human heart was similar to that of the animals he had studied.
    • He realised that so much blood was being pushed out of the heart that it wasn't used up and replaced like Galen said it was.
      • He proved there was a fixed volume of blood in the body and that it was circulating by trying to pump liquids the wrong way up a vein or artery, proving they were 'one way' systems.


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