William Harvey

William Harvey biography
Portrait of William Harvey (1578 - 1657) - Wellcome Images

William Harvey biography

William Harvey (April 1, 1578 – June 3, 1657) English physician, embryologist, and physiologist. William was born in the city of Folkestone, England. He started his basic studies at the Grammar School in Canterbury at the age of 10. Later, he moved to Caius College, where he began to experience a passion for science, from there he decided to direct his life towards science. By 1590, Harvey began his studies at Cambridge, where in spite of the difficulties he managed to finish his medical career. He traveled to Italy to study at the medical school of Padua, considered one of the best in Europe. In Padua he met Professor Fabrizio, who encouraged him, even more, to develop the field of embryology and physiology, spending long hours observing the anatomical findings that were decisive in his orientation.

Upon returning to his country of origin, he obtained the necessary documentation to practice the medical profession in 1604 and entered the Royal College of London. Years later, love knocks on his door, when meeting the beautiful and intelligent daughter of the personal physician of King James I, Elizabeth Browne, in a matter of months they decided to marry. This union not only brought him happiness but many benefits in his medical life, he entered as a resident in the hospital of San Bartolomé, where he could deploy all the research they had in mind since his university.

Later, William Harvey exercised his role as a professor of anatomy and surgery, causing amazement and admiration among his pupils. On April 17, 1618, Harvey delivered his first and famous speech on the circulation of blood, that conference caused the effect of a bomb in the scientific world. The students were interested in the revolutionary theory of this scientist and teacher of 40 years. The majority of the doctors of that time embraced, in effect, the theories of Galen which, in relation to circulation, were no longer valid. Harvey demonstrated this affirmation with exact proofs.

At the same time in 1618 Dr. Harvey was assigned to James I’s personal physician and, decades later, Carlos I appointed him a chamber doctor, and in the civil war he entrusted him with the care of his children. Because of the great loyalty that the king had, he decided to accompany him on his retreat to Oxford. In times of instability, the monarchy suffered government persecution during the Cromwell Protectorate.

“Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.” William Harvey

The publication of his work Anatomica de Motu Cordis in 1628, generated a turning point in the history of medicine. As it collapsed the conceptions and postulates of Greek philosophy and gave the entrance to a way of conceiving science, no longer from mere supposition but from experience. As for the scientific work of Harvey, it is necessary to emphasize the primordial aspects: the description of the blood circulation and his embryological doctrines. The work quickly became famous throughout the European continent, although it engendered a strong controversy, of which William Harvey remained on the sidelines.

In 1642, William Harvey moved to the United Kingdom to practice as a professor at Merton College. Until the time of conception of embryology, degrees that describe the process of fertilization of these living beings, and publication finally in 1652.

The advances of Harvey contain great importance because they reject the then unquestionable orthodox theory on the blood circulation of Claudius Galen, inherited from Aristotle. For example, his work Anatomical Exercise concerning the movement of the heart and blood in animals was a classic of science and even today, it is studied to understand the advance of medicine. It exhibits a correct model of blood circulation, explaining the role of valves, the heart, the processes of sucking and pumping blood, the mechanism of exchange between blood and oxygenated blood. This contrasted with the orthodox concept that blood was constantly produced in the liver and consumed in the body. Galen focused on thinking about what was happening. Harvey, on the contrary, focused on checking, carrying out dissections, what happened.

Another one of the contributions of Harvey was to affirm that the valves of the vein prevent that the blood advances in another sense that is not towards the heart, and it is demonstrated mathematically, following Galileo, the reality of the closed economy. He measured the capacity of the heart and found that the sum of blood pushed into the body by each element of two ounces. He concluded that the blood always travels along the same route and returns to its starting point, this process being infinite. His investigations, born of authentic experiments, not imagined at the time. We can say with justice that the discovery of the circulation was the first adjusted explanation of an organic process and the starting point towards experimental physiology.

In his advanced age, he was named the president of the College of Physicians, but William did not accept the position due to his delicate state of health. Harvey died at age 80 in Roehampton, London on June 3, 1657.

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