Harvey, William (1578-1657) (DNB00)

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HARVEY, WILLIAM, M.D. (1578–1657), physician and discoverer of the circulation of the blood, was born at Folkestone, Kent, 1 April 1578, in a house which was in later times the posthouse of the town and which still belongs to Caius College, Cambridge, to which Harvey bequeathed it. His father was Thomas Harvey, a Kentish yeoman, and in May 1600 jurat of Folkestone. His mother, Joane, daughter of Thomas Halke of Hastingleigh, Kent, was the second wife of Thomas Harvey, and William was the second child and eldest son of the family. His father died 12 Jan. 1623, his mother 8 Nov. 1605, and they had six other sons. In 1588 William was sent to the King's School, Canterbury. Thence he went to Cambridge, where he was admitted a pensioner in Gonville and Caius College, 31 May 1593, George Estey, fellow, being his surety (Caius Admission Book, manuscript). He graduated B.A. 1597, and, determining to study medicine, travelled through France and Germany to Padua, the most famous school of physic of that time. Here, in the curious anatomical theatre, lined with carved oak, which is still standing, he attended the candle-light lectures of the great anatomist Fabricius of Aquapendente, and pursued the other medical studies of the place. He graduated M.D. 25 April 1602, and the diploma expresses the warm satisfaction of the university of Padua at his graduation (original in the College of Physicians of London). He returned to England, graduated M.D. at Cambridge 1602, and soon after took a house in the parish of St. Martin-extra-Ludgate in London. In November 1604 he married, at the church of the neighbouring parish of St. Sepulchre, Elizabeth, daughter of Dr. Lancelot Browne [q. v.], formerly physician to Queen Elizabeth. On 5 Oct. in the same year Harvey was admitted a candidate of the College of Physicians and was elected a fellow 5 June 1607. On Saturday 28 Feb. 1609, at a court of the governors of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Sir John Spencer [q. v.] in the chair, he applied for the reversion of the office of physician, and brought a recommendation from the king and testimonials of professional competence from Dr. Atkins, president of the College of Physicians, and from several of the senior doctors of the college. Harvey was elected to the reversion, a condition comparable to that of an assistant physician at the present day. Dr. Wilkinson, also a Cambridge man, gave his assistant the benefit of his professional experience and friendship. Wilkinson died in the summer, and his assistant discharged the duties of the physiciancy till his formal election as physician at a meeting of the president, Sir John Spencer, and the governors on Saturday, 14 Oct. 1609. He was then solemnly charged to attend at the hospital ‘one day in the weeke at the leaste thorough the yeare, or oftner, as neede shall requyer;’ to give the poor the full benefit of his knowledge; to prescribe only such medicines as should ‘doe the poore good,’ without regard to the pecuniary interests of the apothecary; to take no reward from the patients, and to render account for any negligence on his part. The hall of the hospital in which he sat once a week to see patients was a spacious room, pulled down about 1728, with a great fireplace, to the fire of which Henry III had granted a supply of wood from the forest of Windsor. Harvey sat at a table and the patients brought to him sat upon a settle beside it, the apothecary, the steward, and the matron standing by. The surgeons discharged their duties in the wards, and the physician only went into them to see such patients as could not walk. His prescriptions were written in a book which was kept locked up. On 28 July 1614, at a court of governors under the presidency of Sir Thomas Lowe, it was resolved that Harvey should have an official residence formed of two houses and a garden in West Smithfield, adjoining the hospital. The premises were then on a lease, and the tenure was to begin at its expiration. This did not take place till 1626, when Harvey, after consideration, decided not to accept the residence, and on 7 July 1626 his stipend was in consequence increased from 25l. to 33l. 6s. 8d.

On 4 Aug. 1615 he was elected Lumleian lecturer at the College of Physicians (note under the year 1617 in the manuscript Annales of the College of Physicians, placed there by order of the president, who had been present in 1615), and in the following April, on the 16th, 17th, and 18th, he delivered at the college in Knightrider Street, near St. Paul's Cathedral, the lectures in which he made the first public statement of his thoughts on the circulation of the blood. The notes from which he delivered these lectures exist in their original manuscript and binding at the British Museum. The pages measure six inches in length by three and three quarters in breadth, and are closely written over, the notes being generally arranged in a tabular form. Here and there they are underlined with red ink, and opposite the statement which the author thought especially his own are the initials ‘W. H.’ written somewhat obliquely but in right lines. This habit of initial signature also occurs in another manuscript of Harvey (Sloane 486) and in his notes on the copy of Gulston's ‘Opuscula Varia Galeni’ (British Museum Library), and thus he probably signed his prescriptions. The notes of the lectures have a carefully written title-page; at the top is the line ‘Stat Jove principium, Musæ, Jovis omnia plena,’ and then the words ‘Prelectiones Anatomiæ universalis per me Gulielmum Harveium, medicum Londinensem Anatomie et Chirurgie Professorem Anno Domini 1616, anno ætatis 37 prelectæ, Aprili 16, 17, 18,’ and at foot is a quotation from Aristotle's ‘Historia Animalium,’ lib. i. c. 16, in Latin, which advises the study of comparative anatomy for the elucidation of the difficulties of human anatomy. The notes cover ninety-six pages, some of them containing more than forty lines of close writing. There are divisions which indicate where the lectures ended. The book does not complete the treatment of the subject. Some further notes are contained in another manuscript (Sloane 486), although these do not directly continue the first collection of notes. The lectures are three in number, and begin by a statement of the general arrangement of the subject, followed by eleven rules, which the lecturer lays down for his own guidance. They direct demonstration of what is before the audience, the illustration of human anatomy by that of animals, the avoidance of controversy, of minute details, and of telling what may as well be learnt at home. The first lecture treats of the outside of the body, then of the skin, fat, and superficial muscles, and then of the abdomen and all its contents. Each organ is described, often with homely illustrations, as of the names of the various parts of the alimentary canal (f. 20), ‘from Powles to Ledenhale, one way but many names, as Cheape, Powtry, &c.,’ or of the stomach, ‘Figura like a horne, a bagpipe, rotunda quo capacior, less and less quo cibaria cocta minorem locum.’ The notes are in Latin, with many intercalated English words or sentences. The second lecture deals with the chest and its contents. Nine pages (ff. 72–80) refer to the heart, and show that the lecturer had already completed his discovery of the circulation of the blood. The first describes the structure of the heart and of the great vessels, explains the contraction of the several cavities of the heart, the form and use of its valves and of the valves in the veins, and he concludes by clearly stating that he has thus demonstrated that the perpetual motion of the blood in a circle is produced by the beat of the heart. The third lecture is on the head, including the brain and nerves, and ends with the remark that Galen was not the first to whom had occurred the notion that nerves went from the brain to the organs of sense, since Cicero had twice suggested it, once in the Tusculan disputations and once in the ‘De Natura Deorum.’ The lectures show their author to have been widely read. He had studied Aristotle and Galen evidently in Latin editions, and had a profound veneration for Aristotle and a professional respect without much personal admiration for Galen. He quotes Aristotle oftener than any other author, and after Aristotle Galen. He was familiar with all the anatomists from Vesalius to his own times, and had Columbus, Fallopius, Fernelius, Laurentius, Nicholaus Massa, and Bauhin at his fingers' ends. Of the Latin poets he cared most for Virgil, and knew Plautus and Horace, and of the prose writers Cæsar, Cicero, and Vitruvius. He had read St. Augustine, and was well versed in the Bible. He does not mention the works of Shakespeare nor any of the literature of his time, though he often quotes verbal remarks of his contemporaries, chiefly, however, of physicians. He had already attained considerable practice, and must have laboured incessantly, for he showed that he had thoroughly dissected more than eighty species of animals. The lectures lasted more than an hour each day, as it was necessary to complete the course before the body which lay on the table became putrid, and the preservative fluids at present in use in dissecting rooms were then unknown. It was Harvey's custom to settle beforehand the exact time he would give to each part, and not to exceed it.

In 1618 (Pharmacopeia Londinensis, 1618) Harvey was physician extraordinary to James I, and on 3 Feb. 1623 he received a promise to be made physician in ordinary on the next vacancy. On 1 Feb. 1620, with Dr. Mayerne and Dr. Clement, he was appointed by the College of Physicians to watch the proceedings of the surgeons who were moving parliament in their own interest. On 17 Feb. he was sent to a conference on the same subject at Gray's Inn, and afterwards to Cambridge, where the university declined to join the College of Physicians (Coll. of Physicians MS. Liber Annalium). On 16 July 1623 he proved, as executor, his father's will in London. A certificate stating that the health of Sir William Sandis, a country gentleman, required his stay in London in the winter of 1624, and signed by Harvey, is preserved in the Public Record Office (Dom. Ser. Charles I, xlvii. No. 9). In the same year he was concerned in the proceedings against one Savery, a quack, and Harvey related to the College of Physicians what the king's majesty told him about Savery pretending to cure epilepsy only. In each year he gave the Lumleian lectures at the College of Physicians, and the notes of those of 1627 (Sir G. E. Paget, An Unpublished Manuscript of Harvey), are in the British Museum (Sloane 486) in a volume somewhat smaller than that containing his first course. It has 121 leaves, of which the first sixty-eight are devoted to the anatomy of the muscles, and most of the remainder to their functions and diseases, of which last he shows a considerable clinical knowledge. In these lectures he quotes Aristotle often and Riolanus once, but in the rarity of his allusions to authors they present a marked contrast to the first course of lectures. In 1628, twelve years after his first statement of it in his lectures, he published at Frankfurt, through William Fitzer, his discovery of the circulation of the blood. The book is small quarto, entitled ‘Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus,’ and contains seventy-two pages and two plates of diagrams. The printers evidently had difficulty in reading the author's handwriting, and there are many misprints. There is a dedication to Charles I, in which the king in his kingdom is compared to the heart in the body, and this is followed by a modest address to Dr. Argent, the president, and to the fellows of the College of Physicians of London. An introduction then states the existing opinions on the structure of the heart and great vessels, on the blood and its movement, for that it moved had of course been observed from the earliest times. Seventeen chapters follow, in which the whole subject is made clear from the beginning and incontestably demonstrated. He begins by modestly stating how the difficulties of the subject had gradually become clear to him, and by expressing, with a quotation from the ‘Andria’ of Terence, the hope that his discovery might help others to still further knowledge. He then describes the motions of arteries, of the ventricles of the heart, and of its auricles, as seen in living animals, and the use of these movements. He shows that the blood coming into the right auricle from the vena cava, and passing then to the right ventricle, is pumped out to the lungs through the pulmonary artery, passes through the parenchyma of the lungs, and comes thence by the pulmonary veins to the left ventricle. This same blood, he shows, is then pumped out to the body. It is carried out by arteries and comes back by veins, performing a complete circulation. He shows that, in a live snake, when the great veins are tied some way from the heart, the piece of vein between the ligature and the heart is empty, and further, that blood coming from the heart is checked in an artery by a ligature, so that there is blood between the heart and the ligature and no blood beyond the ligature. He then shows how the blood comes back to the heart by the veins, and demonstrates their valves. These had before been described by Hieronymus Fabricius of Aquapendente, but before Harvey no exact explanation of their function had been given. He gives diagrams showing the results of obstructing veins, and that these valves may thus be seen to prevent the flow of blood in the veins in any direction except towards the heart. After a summary of a few lines in the fourteenth chapter he further illustrates the perpetual circuit of the blood, and points out how morbid materials are carried from the heart all over the body. The last chapter gives a masterly account of the structure of the heart in men and animals, and points out that the right ventricle is thinner than the left because it has only to send the blood a short way into the lungs, while the left ventricle has to pump it all over the body.

This great and original book at once attracted attention and excited discussion. In the College of Physicians of London, where Harvey had mentioned the discovery in his lectures every year since 1616, the Exercitatio received all the honour it deserved. On the continent of Europe it was received with less favour, but neither in England nor abroad did any one suggest that the discovery was to be found in other writers. The ‘Exercitationes et animadversiones in librum Gulielmi Harvei de Motu Cordis et Circulatione Sanguinis’ of Dr. James Primrose appeared in 1630, and the ‘Lapis Lydius de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis’ of Æmylius Parisanus at Venice in 1635; both are mere controversial writings of no scientific interest. Hoffman of Nuremberg and others followed in opposition, in letters, lectures, and treatises, but before his death the great discovery of Harvey was accepted throughout the medical world. The modern controversy (Dr. George Johnson, Harveian Oration, 1882; Willis, William Harvey, a History of the Discovery of the Circulation of the Blood, 1878) as to whether the discovery was taken from some previous author is sufficiently refuted by the opinion of the opponents of his views in his own time, who agreed in denouncing the doctrine as new; by the laborious method of gradual demonstration obvious in his book and lectures; and, lastly, by the complete absence of lucid demonstration of the action of the heart and course of the blood in Cæsalpinus, Servetus, and all others who have been suggested as possible originals of the discovery. It remains to this day the greatest of the discoveries of physiology, and its whole honour belongs to Harvey. He was a regular attendant at the comitia of the College of Physicians, and took an active part in the proceedings. On 9 Dec. 1629, at the president's house, he examined Dr. James Primrose [q. v.] for admission as a candidate, and passed him. On 22 Dec. 1630 he subscribed 20l. to the fund for purchasing a site, and on 26 March 1632 drew up new rules for the college library.

On 21 Jan. 1630 he applied to the governors of St. Bartholomew's Hospital for leave of absence, in accordance with the king's command, to travel with the Duke of Lennox, and in July he started on the journey. On 23 Sept. he was in Paris (Aveling, Memorials of Harvey), but was in London 8 Oct. and 22 Dec. 1630. He afterwards visited Blois, Saumur, and Bordeaux. In February 1632 he was in Spain, and probably visited Venice before his return to England. In a letter to Lord Dorchester, preserved in the Bodleian Library (Clarendon Papers, 2076), he asks that none be put into his place of physician to the household during his absence, and describes how the countries were so wretched ‘that by the way we could scarcely see a dogg, crow, kite, raven, or any bird or anything to anatomise, only sum few miserable people, the reliques of the war and the plague, where famine had made anatomies before I came.’ In May 1633 he obtained leave from the governors of St. Bartholomew's (MS. Minute Book of St. Bartholomew's Hospital) to go to Scotland with the king. While there in June he visited the Bass Rock, and an account by him of its gannets is extant (MacMichael, British Physicians, p. 42). On 5 Oct. 1633 he applied to Sir Robert Ducie, then president of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, to summon a meeting of the governors, the surgeons, and the apothecary, so that he might lay before them ‘some particulars concerning the good of the poore of this howse, and reformacon of some orders conceaved to be in this howse.’

On 15 Oct. the meeting took place, and Dr. Andrewes was appointed a full physician, so as to give Harvey more liberty. Sixteen regulations drawn up by Harvey were then discussed, and were all agreed to except one requiring the surgeons to declare their treatment whenever the physician desired. Their general purport is that absolutely incurable cases are not to be admitted, and that the surgeons, apothecary, and matron are to discharge all their duties decently and in person. In 1634 four Lancashire women had been accused of witchcraft (Aveling, Memorials of Harvey), and were sent to London. Harvey was desired by the Earl of Manchester (29 June 1634) to arrange with Baker and William Clowes (1582–1648) [q. v.], the king's surgeons, for their examination. On 2 July he superintended their physical examination by ten midwives and seven surgeons, and found that there was nothing unnatural in their bodies, and so they were pardoned. On 4 July 1634 he gave a tanned human skin to the College of Physicians ‘for a monument to be reserved in the college.’ On the same day, by the president's direction, he made a speech to the apothecaries persuading them to conformity to the college orders (MS. Annales). In 1635, on 17 Nov., an impudent barber-surgeon named William Tellett, on being called to account (Sidney Young, Records of the Barber-Surgeons) for not recording the death of a maidservant whom he was attending, declared that her death was due to Dr. Harvey's physic. On 16 Nov., Queen Henrietta Maria's birthday, he examined post mortem the body of Thomas Parr, a Shropshire labourer, stated to have lived 152 years and nine months. His report of the post-mortem was published in 1669 by Dr. Bett (De Ortu et Natura Sanguinis). On 7 April 1636 he left England again, in attendance on Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, who was sent as ambassador to the emperor (Munk, Notæ Harveianæ). In May he was in Nuremberg, and dined at the English College in Rome on 5 Oct. 1636, Dr. George Ent [q. v.] also being a guest (Foley, Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, vi. 614). While at Nuremberg he visited his opponent Hoffman, but did not convince him.

Harvey remained in London till the outbreak of the great rebellion. A certificate signed by him on 2 Dec. 1637 as to the health of Sir Thomas Thynne is in the State Paper Office (Aveling, Memorials of Harvey). The ‘Galeni Opuscula Varia’ of Dr. Theodore Goulston [q. v.] was published by Gataker in 1640. He had been a friend of Harvey, and his copy in the British Museum has many marginal notes in Harvey's hand, and some signed with his initials. He read the Latin, and not the Greek text (Harvey's copy of ‘Galen’). The album of Philip de Glargis in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 23105) has an entry written for the owner by Harvey, ‘Dii laboribus omnia vendunt,’ 8 May 1641. In 1642 he left London in attendance on the king. He cared little for politics (letter to John Nardi, Sydenham Society's edition of Harvey, p. 611), and while the king's army was assembling he visited his friend Percival Willughby at Derby, and talked with him of uterine diseases (Aveling, p. 22). He was present at the battle of Edgehill, and, according to Aubrey, all whose remarks about him are to be received with suspicion, had charge of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York while the fight was in progress, and read a book he had in his pocket. He went to Oxford with the king, and was incorporated M.D. on 7 Dec. 1642. On 17 Oct. 1643 he wrote a report at Milton on the health of Prince Maurice, who was suffering from the typhus fever, which was then epidemic in the royal army. Harvey worked at anatomy, making dissections at Oxford (Highmore, preface to Anatomy), and in 1645 was made by royal mandate warden of Merton College, in the place made vacant by the departure of Sir Nathaniel Brent [q. v.] In 1643 he had received his payment as physician to St. Bartholomew's Hospital for the last time. In 1646, after the surrender of Oxford, he returned to London and resided in the houses of his brothers, who were wealthy merchants. In 1649 he published at Cambridge, at the press of Roger Daniels, ‘Exercitatio Anatomica de Circulatione Sanguinis, ad Joannem Riolanem filium Parisiensem,’ in which he discusses the arguments against his doctrines set forth in a book, ‘Encheiridium Anatomicum,’ Leyden, 1648, written by Riolanus, and presented by him to Harvey. Riolanus's shallow remarks are considered courteously. At the end Harvey mentions that he had intended to write a morbid anatomy of diseases based upon the notes of the numerous post-mortem examinations he had made. At Christmas 1650 Dr. George Ent visited Harvey at his brother's house, and after a conversation, which is recorded by Ent, brought away the manuscript of a treatise entitled ‘Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium, quibus accedunt quædam de Partu, de Membranis ac Tumoribus Uteri et de Conceptione.’ This was published in 1651 by Pulleyn, in St. Paul's Churchyard, London. The parts of the hen's egg, and the growth of the chick within it, are fully described, and all the points of growth and development discussed in relation to it. It shows vast labour and careful observation; but the discovery of the microscope was wanting to make clear much of what Harvey could only see in part. This was his last published work, except a few letters printed at the end of his Works (Sydenham Society, 1846–7). On 4 July 1651 he offered to the College of Physicians, through its president, Dr. Prujean, to build a library. This was done anonymously, but became known, and on 22 Dec. 1652 the college voted the erection of Harvey's statue. On 2 Feb. 1654 the library was complete, and the donor handed it over to the college. On 30 Sept. 1654 he was elected president of the college, but declined the honour on the ground of age. He served on the council in 1655 and 1656. In 1656 he resigned his Lumleian lectureship; gave the college his estate at Burmarsh, Romney Marsh, Essex, and took leave of the fellows. He had had many attacks of gout, and used to check it by putting his feet in cold water. The attacks became more frequent, and he died on 3 June 1657. The fellows of the College of Physicians followed his body on its way to Hempstead in Essex, where it was deposited, wrapped in lead, in a vault of the family. Here it remained till St. Luke's day (18 Oct.) 1883, when it was translated, in the presence of the president (Sir William Jenner) and several fellows of the college, to a white marble sarcophagus provided by the college in the Harvey chapel erected in Hempstead Church; with the leaden coffin, bearing the inscription, ‘Doctor William Harvey. Decesed the 3 of June 1657. Aged 79 years,’ there were deposited in the sarcophagus a copy of the large edition of Harvey's works and a roll recounting the incidents of the translation, a duplicate of which hangs in the library of the College of Physicians. Harvey's will is in his own handwriting. He gave his books and papers to the college, his gown to Sir Charles Scarburgh [q. v.], his coffee-pot to his brother Eliab, a benefaction to Christ's Hospital, and many bequests to his relations. He was of short stature, and in youth had black hair. His portrait, by Cornelius Jansen, hangs in the library of the College of Physicians, and there is a characteristic bust, attributed to Scheemakers, in the Harvey chapel at Hempstead in Essex. Another portrait by an unknown painter is in the National Portrait Gallery; a contemporary engraving of this picture, usually attributed to Hollar, is more probably by Gaywood.

The best collected edition of his works is that published by the College of Physicians, edited by Dr. Lawrence, in 1766. A complete translation of his works into English was published in London by the Sydenham Society in 1847. An edition of the ‘De Circulatione Sanguinis,’ with the attacks of Parisianus and Primrose, was published at Leyden in quarto in 1639, and a duodecimo edition in London in 1648, the first published in England. Another was published in London by Daniels in 1660, and editions appeared at Rotterdam in 1648, 1654, 1661, and 1671. A small quarto edition of his whole works was published at Leyden in 1737. The first edition of the ‘De Circulatione’ in English was published at the White Lion in Duck Lane, London, in 1653, and a further edition in 1673, both by R. Lowndes. In 1653 the ‘De Generatione Animalium’ was published in English, with a preface by Sir George Ent and a portrait of Harvey by W. Faithorne. The college contributed to the publication of his ‘Prelectiones Anatomiæ Generalis’ in 1886, and on St. Luke's day an oration in praise of him and of the other benefactors of the college is every year delivered.

[Life by Dr. Lawrence in Gulielmi Harveii Opera, 1766; Works and original manuscripts; MS. Liber Annalium, Col. Medicorum, Lond. 1608–47; St. Bartholomew's Hospital MS. Minute Books; Prelectiones Anatomiæ Universalis, ed. by a Committee of the Coll. of Phys. London, 1886 (the introduction was written by the author of this life); Aubrey's Lives of Eminent Persons, ed. 1813; Lives of British Physicians, 1830 (this book, with the life of Harvey, was written, as far as the life of Radcliffe, by Dr. MacMichael, whose interleaved copy is in the library of the College of Physicians. The rest was written by Dr. Bisset Hawkins, Dr. Parry, Dr. Southey, Dr. Munk, and Mr. Clarke); Willis's William Harvey, a History of the Discovery of the Circulation of the Blood; Munk's Coll. of Phys. i. 124; Munk's Notæ Harveianæ; St. Bartholomew's Hospital Reports, xxiii. 1887; Munk's Brief Account of the circumstances leading to and attending the Reintombment of the Remains of Dr. William Harvey, privately printed, London, 1883; Sir James Paget's Records of Harvey, London, 1846, and St. Bartholomew's Hospital Reports, 1886; Sir G. E. Paget's Unpublished Letter of Harvey, Cambridge, 1848, and Notice of an Unpublished Manuscript of Harvey, London, 1850; Dr. Norman Moore's Harvey's Notes on Galen, Athenæum, 6 Oct. 1888; the Harveian Orations, of which more than a hundred have been delivered, and most of them printed (those of Sir G. E. Paget, Dr. J. W. Ogle, Professor Rolleston, Dr. George Johnson, and Sir E. Sieveking contain most in relation to biography.]

N. M.