Harvey, by Hercules! The Hero of the Blood’s Circulation

  • Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle


This study exposes William Harvey’s professional issues and personal ambitions to promote an understanding of his historic role as the deliberator and discoverer of the heart’s circulation of the blood. Harvey brilliantly and subversively assumed the persona of the mythological Hercules to embody his own anatomical labor to understand the heart and the blood flow. He sought to usurp the epithet for immortality, “a second Hercules,” by reforming humanist dependence on ancient texts as authoritative medicine. Harvey’s deliberations and demonstrations dammed Galen’s porous septum in the heart that allowed the blood flow. He alternatively channeled the blood in a powerful supply from the heart through the arteries and veins. Harvey intended that circulation to flush the Augean stable of medicine by anatomical observation and practice.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Medieval StudiesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations