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William Harvey Biography

Updated on June 26, 2017

William Harvey Was the First Person to Describe Blood Circulation

William Harvey, the famous English physician, was the first person to describe blood circulation in the human body. Before this discovery it was believed that blood came from food in the liver, then entered the heart where it was heated before it shot out into the veins, not the arteries. This is why Shakespeare and people like that talk about the blood “coursing through their veins” instead of their arteries.

Bloodletting Was Like Aspirin

For about 15 centuries, bloodletting was like aspirin. This treatment was administered by doctors for almost all medical conditions. They believed that the human body was filed with fluids known humors, and draining them was the best way to cure diseases.

William Harvey Has Made Great Contributions in the Field of Medicine

It took a 16th-century physician named William Harvey, who was armed with curiosity and had a stomach for human dissection, to at last disprove that notion. Unfortunately he was thanked for it with a huge dose of public outrage.

William Harvey Discovered the Prominent Role Played by the Heart in Blood Circulation

William Harvey discovered the prominent role played by the heart in blood circulation. This misunderstood genius literally re-wrote the book on human anatomy in 1628. He ignored his haters and went on to to become one of the biggest influences on modern medicine.

William Harvey Was a Genius

William Harvey Was an Enthusiastic Student

William Harvey was born in England on April 1 1578 at Folkestone. He was the eldest child in the family. He was an enthusiastic student. He studied at the King's School for five years. Later on he joined the Caius College in Cambridge. He completed his graduation (Bachelor of Arts) in the year 1597. He joined the University of Padua in the year 1599 to study medicine.

Huxley Thomas Henry has reproduced this classic text. OCR has not been used. HardPress Publishing, the publisher, has endeavored to keep the quality of the original images. The work represents the original artefact accurately.

William Harvey was born in Folkestone, England.

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William Harvey was Tutored by Hieronymus Fabricius

William Harvey was tutored by Hieronymus Fabricius (a famous anatomist) during his stay at the University of Padua. He was respected at the university for his memory and capacity to learn. He earned his graduation (Doctor of Medicine) in 1602 and returned to England. He obtained another degree (Doctor of Medicine) from the University of Cambridge in the same year. He joined the College of Physicians in the year 1604.

William Harvey Earned His Graduation (Doctor of Medicine) in 1602


He Was Elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in the Year 1607.

William Harvey married Elizabeth Browne in the year 1604. The couple did not have any children. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in the year 1607. He served as the Physician in charge at the St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He lived in a small house in Ludgate. He served as a Luleian lecturer at the Royal College of Physicians.

William Harvey married Elizabeth Browne in the year 1604

William Harvey Served as a Physician to King James I and King Charles I

William Harvey served as a physician to King James I and King Charles I. Before Harvey's discovery of blood circulation, people believed that the heart generated heat and that the lungs cooled the heart.

William Harvey Published His Treatise on the Circulation of Blood in the Year 1628

A Discovery of Colossal Importance

Through a meticulous study of what you might call the plumbing of the chest William Harvey came to the conclusion that the heart didn’t heat the blood, it pumped it into the arteries.

Fabricius Taught Harvey That Veins Had Stepladder Valves in Them

He knew from Fabricius that the veins had stepladder valves in them, which Harvey realised helped the blood get back to the heart, completing the circuit. Harvey was working before the microscope and did not know how blood got from the arteries to the veins but he made a very bold guess that this was done by tiny vessels so small he could not see them. He was correct; today we call them capillaries.

Discovery Of Blood Circulation Was Crucial

This discovery was of great importance. There have been numerous advances since, but many experts are of the opinion that circulation was crucial because without it the others would not have emerged.

Could you undertake modern surgery or give an injection without circulation? Can you imagine any modern medical discovery without the knowledge of the blood pumping from the heart?

William Harvey published his treatise on the circulation of blood in 1628. In his treatise titled On the Motion of the Heart and Blood, he explained as to how the heart pumped the blood and played a major role in its proper circulation throughout the body.

One would assume that William Harvey would have been inundated with patients after this publication. Well, the fact is, it had a negative impact on his practice. It almost ruined his career as a doctor. The greatest medical discovery of all time caused considerable amount of financial distress to its discoverer!

His treatise received heavy criticism from his contemporaries. In those days doctors were supposed to be conservative. They were not expected to make innovations – this was associated with quacks.

Good doctors, were expected to dispense medicine and diagnose purely in accordance with the way the ancients had taught. However, the treatise gained wide acceptance later.

His book "Essays on the Generation of Animals" (1651) is considered the basis for modern embryology.


William Harvey died on June 3 1657 at Roehampton. He was buried in Hempstead, Essex. The William Harvey Hospital was constructed in Ashford after his death.

William Harvey Hospital

Located in Willesborough, Ashford, Kent, England, this acute hospital is one of the three main hospitals in the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust area. It provides a range of emergency and elective services, as well as comprehensive maternity, trauma, orthopaedic and paediatric and neonatal Intensive care services.

My husband had a heart attack. Taken by ambulance to William Harvey, where a team was already waiting. Within 1 hour he was back on the ward completely stable. Please keep the NHS as it is, by charging us a bit on National Insurance. It's worth. Thank you to all staff at the William Harvey. You saved my husband's life and mine as well. I could not live without him.

— Maria Vieira

Are you consciously taking care of your heart?

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Timeline of William Harvey's Life

Doctor of Medicine
Joined Royal College of Physicians
Elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians
Appointed Physician-in-Charge at St Bartholomew's Hospital
Appointment to the office of Lumleian lecturer
Began his lectures
Appointment as 'Physician Extraordinary' to King James I
Published his treatise on the circulation of the blood, the De Motu Cordis

All we know is still infinitely less than all that remains unknown.

— William Harvey


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