Circulation: William Harvey's Revolutionary Idea
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“What I am really anxious to hear is the final cause of your monstrous fiction. For your false invention seems to have no purpose. What reason can you give me for the circulation of the blood?”
William Harvey’s theory of circulation was as controversial in its day as Copernicus’ idea that the earth revolved around the sun. Unleashing intellectual anarchy, derailing established ideas, & gaining currency far beyond the walls of the College of Physicians, Harvey’s revolutionary theory went on to permeate the culture and language of 17th century England.
Circulation charts the remarkable rise of the yeoman’s son who demolished beliefs held by anatomists since Roman times, going on to become arguably the greatest Englishman in the history of science after Darwin & Newton.
into the royal presence; His Majesty ‘wondered at it & looked content to see so rare a thing’. Harvey professed to value learning over titles. ‘When he perceived’, a friend said, ‘that honours and other decorations of that kind’ were not, in the main, given as rewards for ‘uprightness of character’ or ‘dedication to philosophy’, he ‘passed all these things by’ – meaning perhaps, that he never petitioned the king for a knighthood. Harvey did not, it seems, covet a title; being the king’s personal
experiments. Harvey’s circulation theory, in turn, permeated and altered the culture and language of its time, influencing poets and economists. To the dismay of the arch-Royalist Harvey, it also encouraged radical political ideas – and just as cherished anatomical orthodoxies could be toppled, so was the King during the Civil War. In more ways than one, Harvey’s idea was truly revolutionary, yet astonishingly, it gained currency in his lifetime. Circulation charts the remarkable rise of a
blessing, and imprimatur. He was rehearsing his deeply held belief that the heart was as important for the body politic as the king was for the commonwealth and that the organ and monarch functioned in the same way and corresponded perfectly – they were in a sense the same thing. In draft notes written around this time on ‘movement in animals’, Harvey again described the heart as the ‘general and ruler’, which ‘governs the whole body’ like a ‘King, the first and highest authority in the state’.
the King’s cause until Charles renounced his claim to be ‘a sovereign power … above the laws and statutes of this kingdom’; the Protestant faith was also to be confirmed as the ‘birthright and inheritance’ of the English people. The autocratic Charles, whom many suspected of Catholic tendencies, was widely regarded as a threat to the inalienable political and religious rights of all Englishmen. An uneasy stalemate followed, but conflict erupted again in 1642, this time in the form of full-scale
(characteristics/social status of) xii, 3–5, 7–9, 13, 19, 21, 42, 49, 74, 76, 93, 95–7, 119, 158, 221, 224 Zabarella, Jacopo 52n This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution