Course:History 344/Nasty Families/Inventions/Discovery of Blood Flow

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William Harvey-Discovery of Blood Flow

Was the first known man to discover that blood flowed throughout the body and was pumped by the heart. He was an English physician who was educated at King’s College, Canterbury and then later at Cambridge University. He spend some time in Italy and when he returned to England, he was able to heighten his status by marrying Elizabeth Browne, who happen to be the daughter of Queen Elizabeth I’s physician. In 1618, he became physician to Elizabeth's successor James I and to James' son Charles when he became king. Both James and Charles took a close interest in and encouraged Harvey's research.[1] He remained close to the Royal family and witnessed the death and destruction of the Battle of Edgehill first hand. Many believe that it was on the battlefield in which Harvey was able to further examine and prove his theory of blood circulation. After the civil war he turned his attention to other matters involving the human body. He was fascinated with the idea of reproduction and set his sights on finding a reasonable explanation of how it came about. After years of research he came to the conclusion that it was possible that humans and mammals reproduced through the joining of an egg and sperm. There was no exact way that he could prove it at the time but he felt as though no other theory made sense. It was 200 years before a mammalian egg was finally observed, but Harvey's theory was so compelling and so well thought out that the world assumed he was right long before the discovery was finally made.[2]


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