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William Harvey: A Life in Circulation [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Wright
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $31.95
Kindle Price: $21.99
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Book Description

In 1628, the English physician William Harvey published his revolutionary theory of blood circulation. Offering a radical conception of the workings of the human body and the function of the heart, Harvey's theory overthrew centuries of anatomical and physiological orthodoxy and had profound consequences for the history of science. It also had an enormous impact on culture more generally, influencing economists, poets and political thinkers, for whom the theory triumphed not as empirical fact but as a remarkable philosophical idea.
In the first major biographical study of Harvey in 50 years, Thomas Wright charts the meteoric rise of a yeoman's son to the elevated position of King Charles I's physician, taking the reader from farmlands of Kent to England's royal palaces, and paints a vivid portrait of an extraordinary mind formed at a fertile time in England's intellectual history. Set in late Renaissance London, the book features an illustrious cast of historical characters, from Francis Bacon and John Donne to Robert Fludd, whose corroboration of Harvey's ideas helped launch his circulation theory.
After he published his discoveries, Harvey became famous throughout Europe, where he demonstrated his theory through public vivisections. Although his ideas met with vociferous opposition, they eventually triumphed and Harvey became renowned as the only man in the history of natural philosophy to live to see a revolutionary theory gain wide currency. But just as intellectual ideas could be toppled, so too could kings. When Charles I was overthrown during the Civil War of the 1640s, his loyal court physician fell also, and Harvey, an unrepentant Royalist, was banished from London under the English Republic. He died in the late 1650s, a gout-ridden, melancholy man, uncertain of his achievement.

A victim of the political turmoil of the times, William Harvey was nevertheless the mainspring of vast historical changes in anatomy and physiology. Wright's biography skillfully repositions Harvey as a man who embodied the intellectual and cultural spirit of his age, and launched a revolution that would continue to run its course long after his death.

Editorial Reviews


"[Wright] absolutely does justice to his subject. Bravo." -- The Times (London, England), Vivenne Parry

'Thomas Wright's acute, imaginative book' -- Sunday Times, April 1, 2012. John Carey

'In Circulation, Wright tells a good story, warts and allEL Wright reconstructs the research ... [and] is attentive to the world in which his subject lived. The semi-medieval conditions of life at the universities of Cambridge and Padua are well-described." -- Duncan Wu, The Independent

"Thomas Wright's lucid biography deftly puts Harvey into his cultural context" -- Hermione Eyre, Prospect

"Thomas Wright's lively little book on Harvey's revolutionary idea is a panegyric to the man's whirring mind, and to the excitements of thinking more generally." -- Helen Brown, The Daily Telegraph (4 stars)

"As soon as I started the book, I was gripped with curiosity." -- William Leith, Spectator

"Thomas Wright's book opens brilliantly and bloodily and continues in the same vein... a captivating, intellectually gripping journey into our country's scientific past." -- Druin Birch, Mail on Sunday

"A fascinating narration of a largely untold story." -- Peter Ackroyd, British author

"[A] sprightly new study... Wright has written a concise, skillful and often eloquent book." -Charles Nicholl, The Guardian

"Wright's (Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde) "biography of an idea as much as... of a man" presents a wonderful portrait not only of physician William Harvey but also of the changing face of the study of medicine and scientific inquiry in Europe in the early 17th century...Other essays muse on broader cultural concepts such as metaphorical understandings of the heart and the extension of Harvey's ideas even beyond where he himself was comfortable. Wright pulls these threads together to create an enjoyably enlightening history of science, with more than enough background included to make this worthwhile for a general academic audience." -- Publisher's Weekly, starred review

"'The little man of "perpetual movement" has found a fine advocate in Thomas Wright, whose highly readable "Circulation" combines recent scholarship with more than a touch of drama..." -- Helen Bynum, The Times Literary Supplement

"Using the doctor's surviving notes and letters as well as other contemporary sources, Wright convincingly re-creates William Harvey's England. The book's evocations of his boyhood education and college experiences give the later opposition to his theories a clearer context, and will convince readers that Harvey's concept of the heart changed people's perception of the world." --Booklist

"Wright offers an excellent account of Harvey's researches on the heart and circulation, but the real payoff comes from his reconstructions of events in Harvey's life: his days as a student in Cambridge and Padua, his medical practice, or his efforts to defend his work against critics. Wright paints a vivid picture..." -- Bill Bynum, The Lancet

"This remarkable book represents the best in historical detective work. Wright pieces together what remains of a fragmented documentary record, providing a brilliant interpretation and thorough consideration of the period in which William Harvey (1578-1657) lived." -- CHOICE

About the Author

Thomas Wright is the author of Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde, and of numerous articles for publications such as the Times Literary Supplement and the Independent. He is based in Italy and Oxford, where he teaches.

Product Details

  • File Size: 5176 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199931690
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00979YHXG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,598 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The history of anatomy is filled with the suffering of animals. Thomas Wright's biography of William Harvey conveys that fact well. It was Harvey who broke through one of the strongest medieval views in medicine - the role of the heart. His theory of the circulation of the blood had a profound effect on the way medicine and the human body were conceived. Medically, the heart was not the spiritual or emotional center of human existence (though our language continues that tradition) with (according to Galen) the liver constantly producing blood. It was a pump that renewed and circulated blood for the nourishment of the whole body. But some of the experiments that Harvey performed to discover this are at times appalling to modern readers. Some paragraphs are such that the reader wants to simply avert his or her eyes from the book. Wright has no sympathy for vivisection nor for Harvey's apparent complete lack of feeling about it. But Wright's job was not to ignore or cover up the facts of history. It was to put Harvey's work into the context of both his society and the medical community at the time. The book is an excellent overview of Harvey's life.

Harvey lived at a time when dissections of human corpses were major social events. His description of the dissection theater in Padua where Harvey was a student is unforgettable. (The image of the theater is superimposed on the book's cover over Harvey's left eye.) The theater was filled with members of the general public who sat highest in the theater, then students by nationality (often hostile to each other) and lowest down the nobility, city leaders, and professors. It was, to use a modern term, a really big deal - entertainment as well as a source of knowledge. Wright does a great job of putting Harvey's life into the context of his times.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars re-packaged version of his earlier work November 22, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is essentially identical to "Circulation: William Harvey, a Man in Motion"...I was annoyed at having wasted my money on a book which i had already read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars January 24, 2015
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
excellent history from William Harvey
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Insight on Scientific Process December 23, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Love the personal approach to this man and his work. I feel now as if I actually knew him.
It's great to have it made clear how a scientific person of his era thinks.
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0 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Apology for all victims needed worldwide? November 18, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
The use of a medical monopoly to bankrupt whole health budgets,and-more recently-whole nations owes much to Harvey,as does the Holocaust,plantation slavery,the American Civil War,stealing a technical theory and presenting it as your own,in addition to looting,mass rape and abuse of women,children and animals.
Unfortunately,there is hardly a hint of any of those here.That would be a total tragedy if Paul Camster had not already made those details available for us all over the last decade-in plenty of time to prevent economic(and other)meltdowns.These are Nobel-nominated in:

Apocalypse Third Edition

The Gold Tinderbox

The Messiah Stone

Voice Of The Demon

The last of these details the slave trade links,also probed in CRIME&PUNISHMENT

None of these details are technically difficult to follow-Hollywood screenwriter K.Lewis even incorporated several into a stunning screenplay featuring Harvey as an archetypal Bond-style Dr Faustus figure wreaking vengeance on Camster`s relatives and everyone else who`d help bring his allies to justice-a villain worse than any so far ever seen.Co-incidentally,the 9/11 tragedy featured and was strangely prescient,as joint Harvey medical monopoly cult and Islamist bomb plots have featured in recent UK news-including one plot aimed at cremating dozens of women alive.
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