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William Harvey and the Circulation of the Blood


William Harvey, after pursuing his education at Cambridge, and
taking his degree there, thought it was advisable—and justly
thought so, in the then state of University education—to proceed to
Italy, which at that time was one of the great centres of intellectual
activity in Europe, as all friends of freedom hope it will become
again, sooner or later. In those days the University of Padua had a
great renown; and Harvey went there and studied under a man who
was then very famous—Fabricius of Aquapendente. On his return
to England, Harvey became a member of the College of Physicians
in London, and entered into practice; and, I suppose, as an
indispensable step thereto, proceeded to marry. He very soon
became one of the most eminent members of the profession in
London; and, about the year 1616, he was elected by the College of
Physicians their Professor of Anatomy. It was while Harvey held
this office that he made public that great discovery of the
circulation of the blood and the movements of the heart, the nature
of which I shall endeavour by-and-by to explain to you at length.
Shortly afterwards, Charles the First having succeeded to the
throne in 1625, Harvey became one of the king's physicians; and it
is much to the credit of the unfortunate monarch—who, whatever
his faults may have been, was one of the few English monarchs
who have shown a taste for art and science—that Harvey became
his attached and devoted friend as well as servant; and that the
king, on the other hand, did all he could to advance Harvey's
investigations. But, as you know, evil times came on; and Harvey,
after the fortunes of his royal master were broken, being then a
man of somewhat advanced years—over 60 years of age, in fact—
retired to the society of his brothers in and near London, and
among them pursued his studies until the day of his death.
Harvey's career is a life which offers no salient points of interest to
the biographer. It was a life devoted to study and investigation; and
it was a life the devotion of which was amply rewarded, as I shall
have occasion to point out to you, by its results.
Harvey, by the diversity, the variety, and the thoroughness of his
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