Circulation: William Harvey's Revolutionary Idea

Thomas Wright

Circulation: William Harvey's Revolutionary Idea

For a man of such diminutive stature, William Harvey had a huge impact on anatomy and modern biology. Arguably the greatest Englishman in the history of science after Newton and Darwin, Harvey's obsessive quest to understand the movement of the blood overturned beliefs held by anatomists and physicians since Roman times. His circulation theory was as controversial in its day as Copernicus' idea that the earth revolved around the sun. Set in the beating heart of late Renaissance London, Thomas Wright's biography shows how Harvey drew inspiration not only from his dissections and vivisections, but also from the world around him: from England's bustling trade networks to technological developments of the time. It features a dramatic cast of historical characters, including Francis Bacon, England's Lord Chancellor and a recalcitrant patient of Harvey's; John Donne, a poet and preacher fascinated with anatomy and the human heart; and King Charles I, Harvey's beloved patron and witness to many of his experiments. 3.6 out of 5 based on 4 reviews
Circulation: William Harvey's Revolutionary Idea

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History, Science & Nature, Biography
Format Hardback
Pages 272
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication April 2012
ISBN 978-0701185732
Publisher Chatto & Windus
 

For a man of such diminutive stature, William Harvey had a huge impact on anatomy and modern biology. Arguably the greatest Englishman in the history of science after Newton and Darwin, Harvey's obsessive quest to understand the movement of the blood overturned beliefs held by anatomists and physicians since Roman times. His circulation theory was as controversial in its day as Copernicus' idea that the earth revolved around the sun. Set in the beating heart of late Renaissance London, Thomas Wright's biography shows how Harvey drew inspiration not only from his dissections and vivisections, but also from the world around him: from England's bustling trade networks to technological developments of the time. It features a dramatic cast of historical characters, including Francis Bacon, England's Lord Chancellor and a recalcitrant patient of Harvey's; John Donne, a poet and preacher fascinated with anatomy and the human heart; and King Charles I, Harvey's beloved patron and witness to many of his experiments.

Reviews

The Times

Vivienne Parry

My only criticism of this book is that it assumes that everyone knows the way that blood flows through the various chambers of the heart. Er, yes, they might have done at school, but I suspect that many have long forgotten and that a better explanation might have given more power to Wright’s elbow. But he absolutely does justice to his subject. Bravo.

31/03/2012

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

Lives that look successful from the outside may seem failures to those who live them. Thomas Wright’s acute, imaginative book suggests William Harvey’s life was like that … Wright states in his prologue that his own book is by no means intended as an endorsement of animal vivisection, and his accounts of the tortures Harvey inflicted on animals in his public demonstrations make for ghastly reading.

01/04/2012

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The Independent

Dunan Wu

He pulls no punches in his descriptions of medical procedures. Wright is attentive to the world in which his subject lived, and recreates a finely-graded sense of the defensiveness that surrounded Galenic medicine, propped up by those whose lucrative careers were licensed by it. The semi-medieval conditions of life at the universities of Cambridge and Padua are well-described

06/04/2012

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The Spectator

William Leith

As soon as I started this book, I was gripped with a curiosity I should, I realised, have had all along. How did Harvey make his discovery? I had to wait until about halfway through the book to find out. Meanwhile Thomas Wright, a decent biographer, got me acquainted with Harvey — who, after Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Galileo, is one of the most important scientists who ever lived.

31/03/2012

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