Harvey's Views on the Use of the Circulation of the Blood by John G. Curtis

Harvey's Views on the Use of the Circulation of the Blood

byJohn G. Curtis

Kobo ebook | January 15, 2015

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It is a happy moment for a physiologist when the train which is bearing him across the luxuriant plain of Venetia stops at the cry of "Padova!" If he have not informed himself too thoroughly about the sights which he will see at the Paduan University, he will enjoy his own surprise when he is ushered into the Anatomical Theater of Fabricius ab Aquapendente—a room in which standing-places rise steeply, tier above tier, entirely around a small central oval pit. Looking down into this, as he leans upon the rail, the traveler will realize with sudden pleasure that William Harvey, when a medical student, may often have leaned upon the self-same rail to see Fabricius demonstrate the anatomy of man. The place looks fit to have been a nursery of object-teachers, for it is too small to hold a pompous cathedra; and the veteran to whose Latin the young Englishman listened must have stood directly beside the dead body. To an American, musing there alone, the closing years of the sixteenth century, the last years of Queen Elizabeth of England, which seem so remote to him when at home, are but as yesterday.

Recent, indeed, in the history of medicine is the year 1602, when Harvey received his doctor's degree at Padua and returned to London; but for all that we are right in feeling that our day is far removed from his. The tireless progress of modern times has swept on at the charging pace; but in Harvey's time books were still a living force which had been written in days five and six times as far removed from the student of Padua as he from us. Galen, the Greek who practised medicine at imperial Rome in the second century of the Christian era; Aristotle, who had been the tutor of Alexander the Great five hundred years before Galen, when Rome was but a petty state warring with her Italian neighbors;—these ancients were still great working authorities in Harvey's day.

It is against this persistent glow of the Greek thought that Harvey stands out so vividly as the first great modern figure in physiology. But it rather heightens than lowers his achievement that it was by the ancient glow that he saw his way forward, admiring the past, but not dazzled by it. In his old age he bade a young student "goe to the fountain head and read Aristotle, Cicero, Avicenna"; and in talk with the same youth Harvey called the moderns by a name so roughly contemptuous that it will not bear repeating. Yet in his old age, in the very act of extolling the ancients, he wrote as follows:—

"But while we acquiesce in their discoveries, and believe, such is our sloth, that nothing further can be found out, the lively acuteness of our genius languishes and we put out the torch which they have handed on to us."

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Title:Harvey's Views on the Use of the Circulation of the BloodFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:January 15, 2015Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

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