Page:Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, v. 11.djvu/537

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

have been groundless. If we are to credit Aubrey indeed, he found that after the publication of the De Motu, "he fell mightily in his practice; 'twas believed by the vulgar that he was crackbrained, and all the physicians were against him." But the last assertion is demonstrably untrue; and if apothecaries and patients ever forsook him, they must soon have returned, for Harvey left a handsome fortune. By his own profession the book was received as it deserved. So novel a doctrine was not to be accepted without due inquiry, but his colleagues had heard his lectures and seen his demonstrations for years; they were already convinced of the truth of his theory, urged its publication, continued him in his lectureship, and paid him every honour in their power. Abroad the book was widely read and much canvassed. Few accepted the new theory; but no one dreamt of claiming the honour of it for himself, nor for several years did any one pretend that it could be found in the works of previous authors. The first attack on it was a feeble tract by one Primerose, a pupil of Riolanus (Excre. et Animadv. in Libr. Harvei de Motu Cord, et Sang., 1630). Five years later Parisanus, an Italian physician, published his Lapis Lydius de Motu Cord. et Sang. (Venice, 1635), a still more bulky and futile performance. Primerose's attacks were "imbellia pleraque" and "sine ietu;" that of Parisanus "in quamplurimis turpius," according to the contemporary judgment of Vessling. Their dulness has protected them from further censure. Caspar Hoffmann, professor at Nuremberg, while admitting the truth of the lesser circulation in the full Harveian sense, denied the rest of the new doctrine. To him the English anatomist replied in a short letter, still extant, with great consideration yet with modest dignity, beseeching him to convince himself by actual inspection of the truth of the facts in question. He concludes—"I accept your censure in the candid and friendly spirit in which you say you wrote it; do you also the same to me, now that I have answered you in the same spirit." This letter is dated May 1636, and in that year Harvey passed through Nuremberg with the earl of Arundel, and visited Hoffmann. But he failed to convince him; "nec tamen valuit Harveius vel coram," writes Schlegel, who, however, afterwards succeeded in persuading the obstinate old Galenist to soften his opposition to the new doctrine, and thinks that his complete conversion might have been effected if he had but lived a little longer—"nec dubito quin concessisset tandem in nostra castra." While in Italy the following year Harvey visited his old university of Padua, and demonstrated his views to Professor Vessling. A few months later this excellent anatomist wrote him a courteous and sensible letter, with certain objections to the new theory. The answer to this has not been preserved, but it convinced his candid opponent, who admitted the truth of the circulation in a second letter (both were published in 1640), and afterwards told a friend. "Harveium nostrum si audis, agnosces cœlestem sanguinis et spiritus ingressum ex arteriis per venas in dextrum cordis sinum." Meanwhile a greater convert, Descartes, in his Discours sur la Méthode (1637) had announced his adhesion to the new doctrine, and refers to "the English physician to whom belongs the honour of having first shown that the course of the blood in the body is nothing less than a kind of perpetual movement in a circle." Walæus of Leyden, Regius of Utrecht, and Schlegel of Hamburg successively adopted the new physiology. Of these professors, Regius was mauled by the pertinacious Primerose and mauled him in return (Spongia qua eluuntur sordes quæ Jac. Primirosius, &c., and Antidotum adv. Spongiam venenatam Henr. Regii). Descartes afterwards repeated Harvey's vivisections, and, more convinced than ever, demolished an unlucky Professor Plempius of Louvain, who had written on the other side. Dr George Ent also published an Apologia pro Circulatione Sanguinis in answer to Parisanus.

At last Riolan ventured to publish his Enchiridium Anatomicum (1648), in which he attacks Harvey's theory, and proposes one of his own. Riolan had accompanied the queen dowager of France (Maria de Medici) on a visit to her daughter at Whitehall, and had there met Harvey and discussed his theory. He was, in the opinion of the judicious Haller, "vir asper et in nuperos suosque coævos immitis ac nemini parcens, nimis avidus suarum laudum præco, et se ipso fatente anatomicorum princeps." Harvey replied to the Enchiridium with perfectly courteous language and perfectly conclusive arguments, in two letters De Circulatione Sanguinis, which were published at Cambridge in 1649, and are still well worth reading. He speaks here of the "circuitus sanguinis a me inventus." Riolan was unconvinced, but lived to see another professor of anatomy appointed in his own university who taught Harvey's doctrines. Even in Italy, Trullius, professor of anatomy at Rome, expounded the new doctrine in 1651. But the most illustrious converts were Pecquet of Dieppe, the discoverer of the thoracic duct, and of the true course of the lacteal vessels, and Thomas Bartholinus of Copenhagen, in his Anatome ex omnium Vetorum Recentiorumque Observationibus, imprimis Institutionibus leati mei parentis Caspari Bartholini, ad Circulationem Harveianam et vasa lymphatica renovata (Leyden, 1651). At last Plempius also retracted all his objections; for, as he candidly stated, "having opened the bodies of a few living dogs, I find that all Harvey's statements are perfectly true." Hobbes of Malmesbury could thus say in the preface to his Elementa Philosophiæ that his friend Harvey, "solus quod sciam, doctrinam novam superata invidia vivens stabilivit."

It has been made a reproach to Harvey that he failed to appreciate the importance of the discoveries of the lacteal and lymphatic vessels by Aselli, Pecquet, and Bartholinus. In three letters on the subject, one to Dr Morrison of Paris (1652) and two to Dr Horst of Darmstadt (1655), a correspondent of Bartholin's, he discusses these observations, and shows himself unconvinced of their accuracy. He writes, however, with great moderation and reasonableness, and excuses himself from investigating the subject further on the score of the infirmities of age; he was then above seventy-four. The following quotation shows the spirit of these letters:—"Laudo equidem summopere Pecqueti aliorumque in indaganda veritate industriam singularem, nec dubito quin inulta adhuc in Democriti puteo abscondita sint, a venturi sæculi indefatigabili diligentia expromenda." Bartholin, though reasonably disappointed in not having Harvey's concurrence, speaks of him with the utmost respect, and generously says that the glory of discovering the movements of the heart and of the blood was enough for one man.

Harvey's Work on Generation.—We have seen how Dr Ent persuaded his friend to publish this book in 1651. It is between five and six times as long as the Exerc. de Motu Cord. et Sang., and is followed by excursus De Partu, De Uteri Membranis, De Conceptione; but, though the fruit of as patient and extensive observations, its value is far inferior. The subject was far more abstruse, and in fact inaccessible to proper investigation without the aid of the microscope. And the field was almost untrodden since the days of Aristotle. Fabricius, Harvey's master, in his work De Formatione Ovi et Pulli (1621), had alone preceded him in modern times. Moreover, the seventy-two chapters which form the book lack the coordination so conspicuous in the earlier treatise, and some of them seem almost like detached chapters of a system which was never completed or finally revised.

Aristotle had believed that the male parent furnished the body of the future embryo, while the female only nourished and formed the seed; this is in fact the theory on which, in the Eumenides of Æschylus, Apollo obtains the acquittal of Orestes. Galen taught almost as erroneously that each parent contributes seeds, the union of which produced the young animal. Harvey, after speaking with due honour of Aristotle and Fabricius, begins rightly "ab ovo"; for, as he remarks, "eggs cost little and are always and everywhere to be had," and moreover "almost all animals, even those which bring forth their young alive, and man himself, are produced from eggs" ("omnia omnino animalia, etiam vivipara, atque hominem adeo ipsum, ex ovo progigni"). This dictum, usually quoted as "omne vivum ex ovo," would alone stamp this work as worthy of the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, but it was a prevision of genius, and was not proved to be a fact until Von Baer discovered the mammalian ovum in 1827. Harvey proceeds with a careful anatomical description of the ovary and oviduct of the hen, describes the new-laid egg, and then gives an account of the appearance seen on the successive days of incubation, from the 1st to the 6th, the 10th, and the 14th, and lastly describes the process of hatching. He then comments upon and corrects the opinions of Aristotle and Fabricius, declares against spontaneous generation (though in one passage he seems to admit the current doctrine of production of worms by putrefaction as an exception), proves that there is no semen fœmineum, that the chalazre of the hen's egg are not the semen galli, and that both parents contribute to the formation of the egg. He describes accurately the first appearance of the ovarian ova as mere specks, their assumption of yelk, and afterwards of albumen. In chapter xlv. he describes two methods of production of the embryo from the ovum: one is metamorphosis, or the direct transformation of pre-existing material, as a worm from an egg, or a butterfly from an aurelia (chrysalis); the other is epigenesis, or development with addition of parts, the true generation observed in all higher animals. Chapters xlvi.-l. are devoted to the abstruse question of the efficient cause of generation, which, after much discussion of the opinions of Aristotle and of Sennertius, Harvey, refers to the action of both parents as the efficient instruments of the first great cause. [1] He then goes on to describe the

  1. So in Exerc. liv.: "Superior itaque et divinior opifex, quam es' homo, videtur hominem fabricare et conservare, et nobilior artifex, quam gallus, pullum ex ovo producere. Nempe agnoscimus Deum, creatorem suinnium atque omnipotentem, in cunctorum animalium fabrica ubique præsentem esse, et in operibus suis quasi d giro monstrari: cujus in procreatione pulli instrumenta sint gallus et gallina. . . . Nec cuiquam sane hæc attributa conveniunt nisi omnipotenti rerum Principio, quocunque demum nom'ne idipsum appellare libuerit: sive Mentem divinam cum Aristotele, sive cum Platone Animam Mundi, aut cum aliis Naturam naturantem, vel cum ethnicis Saturnum aut lovem; vel potius (ut nos decci) Creatorem ac Patrem omnium quæ in cœlis et terri-. aquo animalia corumque or gines dependent, cujusque nutu sive effato fiunt et generamur omnia.
XI. — 64