Much of what science knows today about blood circulation was discovered by Dr. William Harvey in the 1600s, but was initially considered heresy

Friday, October 11, 2013 by: S. D. Wells
Tags: blood circulation, arteries, history of medicine

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(NaturalNews) Picture yourself feeling very achy and running a high fever, and your family doctor, being so thoughtful, comes to your home to check your vital signs and try to figure out what's wrong. Also imagine this is taking place four centuries ago, in the year 1612. You're lying in your bed and the doctor is explaining to you the best three choices for quelling this fever and flushing out this illness, whatever it might be: "We have a few choices here; we can induce vomiting for a few days, so that you can purge this sickness from your digestive organs. That's my least favorite way. If you're not too excited about that, you can fast for a full week - no food and only a little bit of water, OR, we can open up one of your veins and drain out a good portion of your blood, since there is obviously TOO MUCH BLOOD IN YOUR BODY, and hope that the illness drains out with the extra blood. This is called venesection by evacuation, and it's very effective! But we need to drain the blood from the side of your body that the illness is attacking, so which side hurts?"

Knowing what we know now, bloodletting would be one of the most insane treatments, and seems almost unimaginable that doctors really believed in it and performed it regularly for hundreds of years. And although there's an entire collection of bloodletting instruments at the Smithsonian museum, that certainly doesn't mean what worked then works now. In fact, if your body is being attacked by bacteria, a virus, pathogens, or the like, the last thing you need is to be completely weakened by losing blood, especially considering that bloodletting was nothing like "giving blood" today, and involved draining much more than just a few pints. (

Just as genius minds, great inventions and profound discoveries are often belittled at first, many forms of medicine are heralded at first, only to find out later they don't work at all, and often cause problems which are worse than the condition being treated (pharmaceuticals). In just a few decades, mankind will look back at chemotherapy and radiation and view them in the same way that we view bloodletting now.

How can any person in their right mind believe that polluting the body with chemicals and radiating vital organs could somehow cure a disease which is mainly caused by ingesting chemicals? Even when used "correctly," toxic chemotherapy drugs can destroy your digestive tract, immune system, and cause other cancers to develop later on. ( This is all just common sense and the evolution of basic medicine. We should begin constructing the museum of chemotherapy and radiation instruments now.

The evolution of theories about blood and circulation

Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine spanning 2,000 years. Of course, the practice has now been completely abandoned. Galen of Rome, a student of Hippocrates, began bloodletting after discovering that not only veins, but also arteries, were filled with blood instead of air, which was a common belief at the time. The theory was that blood was created and then used up, and therefore did NOT circulate. This meant it could stagnate and cause illness, reflecting as "humors," which were blood, phlegm and black or yellow bile. This was related to the four Greek classical elements of air, water, earth and fire. Galen is still regarded as the "founder of experimental physiology."

Galen's theories about blood circulation were however, way off the mark, and would not be challenged whatsoever until the 17th century, by a young English physician named William Harvey. Although Galen's writings were a blessing to the ancient world, they were also a curse for more than a millennium, because they were held to be the authority on medicine.

It was the spring of 1616, and Dr. Harvey, at his very first lecture for the College of Physicians, expounded his original and complete views of the circulation of blood. He was immediately called a fraud and heretic by his contemporaries for challenging Galen and the theories of bloodletting.
It wasn't until 12 years later, in 1628, that he delivered his research to the world at large, and this time, his sharing of knowledge and his prolific discovery was like a satellite guiding the scientific revolution. (

At first, Harvey's ideas were so controversial that some of his patients left his practice, but it didn't take long for his fame to spread throughout Europe, and his contribution became widely recognized.

Dr. William Harvey and the birth of modern physiology

Dr. Harvey is famous for having accurately described how blood circulates and the role that the heart plays in that circulation. He studied at the University of Cambridge and at Padua in Italy, which at the time was considered the foremost medical school. He later became a "fellow" at the Royal College of Physicians, and gained the post of physician to King James I and Jame's son, Charles I. Carrying out dissections on live animals and on the bodies of executed criminals, Harvey's research completely disproved Galen's theory that the body made new blood as it used up the old. He proved that the heart was a pump which forced blood around the body through arteries, and that the blood then returned to the heart through the veins. In 1628 Harvey formally presented his findings in his publication, the Anatomical Essay on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals.

Harvey's discoveries ushered in a whole new world of science. The discovery of pulmonary circulation, which was actually described by an Egyptian researcher centuries before (but was not accepted by the "main stream medicine" of the period), now SHATTERED MEDICAL BELIEFS that were held to be true since ancient Greece. The 17th century witnessed the first known blood transfusions, and by the end of the century, scientists have observed, described, and even measured red blood cells.

It was a revolution in epistemological thinking and an upheaval in the approach to acquiring the truth about the natural world. Dr. William Harvey eradicated an existing dogma (bloodletting) without a trace, and replaced it with knowledge and research that was irrefutable. Harvey's theory of blood circulation remains today the greatest "single-handed" discovery in physiology and medicine, if not science in general.


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