William Harvey, physician to Charles I, was the first to
accurately describe how the blood circulates through the human body
in his 1628 work 'De Motu Cordis' (also known as 'On the Motion of
the Heart and Blood'). He studied at the University of Padua, one
of the leading centres of medical knowledge in Europe during the
early modern period, before returning to England to become a fellow
of the College of Physicians.
Galen's theories of the action of the blood, which held that
venous blood was made by the liver and arterial blood by the heart,
held sway when Harvey began his investigations. Harvey started not
with accumulated medical knowledge, but with dissection and direct
experimentation on the hearts and circulatory systems of animals,
working from there to understand the role of valves in controlling
blood flow, the place of the pulmonary arteries and ultimately the
heart as a pump, pushing blood around the body.
This film, which explores Harvey's life and work, is not only
richly illustrated with images and objects relating to Harvey, but
also with recreations of the experiments he carried out on animals;
it includes the examination of a dying heart, pumping slowly enough
to discern the different muscular actions composing its beat. Human
subjects also are used to demonstrate the function of veins in
controlling the one-way flow of venous blood.