Five of his brothers,—Thomas, Daniel, Eliab, Michael, and Matthew—were merchants, and not merchants in a small and niggardly way—non tenues et sordidi, as Dr. Lawrence has it in his Life of Harvey,  but of weight and substance—magni et copiosi, trading especially with Turkey or the Levant, then the main channel through which the wealth of the East flowed into Europe.
Of the two sisters—Sarah died young; of the fate of Anne, or Amy, nothing is known. Great men seem, in almost all authenticated instances, to have had noble-minded women for their mothers.
At ten years of age, Harvey was put to the grammar school of Canterbury, having, doubtless, already imbibed the rudiments of his English education at home under the eye of his excellent mother. In the grammar school of Canterbury he was, of course, initiated into a knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages—the routine practice then as now; and there he seems to have remained until he was about fifteen years of age.
At sixteen he was removed to Caius-Gonvil College, Cambridge,  where he spent from three to four years in the study of classics, dialectics, and physics, such discipline being held peculiarly calculated to fit the mind of the future physician for entering on the study of the difficult science of medicine.
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At nineteen he took his degree of B. Then, even as at the present day, the student of physic obtained the principal part of his medical education from another than his alma mater. In the 16th and 17th centuries, France and Italy boasted medical schools of higher repute than any in Europe; and to one or other of these must the young Englishman who dedicated himself to physic repair, in order to furnish himself with the lore that was indispensable in his profession. Having passed five years at Padua, Harvey, then in the twenty-fourth year of his age , finally obtained his diploma as doctor of physic, with licence to practise and to teach arts and medicine in every land and seat of learning.
We only know that she was the daughter of a physician of the day, Dr. He himself mentions his wife incidentally as having a remarkable pet parrot, which must also, if we may infer so much from the pains he takes in specifying its various habits and accomplishments, have been a particular favorite of his own. We do not now lose sight of Harvey for any length of time: for a number of years, in the beginning of his career, he was probably occupied, like young physicians of the present day, among the poor in circumstance and afflicted in body, taking vast pains without prospect of pecuniary reward, but actuated by the ennobling sense of lightening the sum of human misery, and carried away, uncaring personal respects, by that ardent love of his profession which distinguishes every true votary of the art medical.
Harvey, however, had not only zeal, talents, and accomplishments; he had, what was no less needful to success: powerful friends, united brothers, with the will and the ability to help him forward in the career he had chosen. In the beginning of , he made suit for the reversion of the office of physician to St. Adkinson, President of the College of Physicians, and others, his petition was granted, and he was regularly chosen physician in futuro of St.
In his new position Harvey must have found ample scope for acquiring tact and readiness in the practical details of his profession; though St. In the year , Harvey, then in the thirty-seventh year of his age, was happily chosen to deliver the lectures on anatomy and surgery at the College of Physicians, founded by Dr. Richard Caldwal, and it is generally allowed that in the very first course he gave, which commenced in the month of April of the following year, he presented a detailed exposition of the views concerning the circulation of the blood, which have made his name immortal.
Long years had indeed been labouring at the birth which then first saw the light; civilized Europe, ancient and modern, had been slowly contributing and accumulating materials for its production; Harvey at length appeared, and the idea took fashion in his mind and emerged complete, like Pallas, perfect from the brain of Jove. Some few years after his appointment as their lecturer by the College of Physicians, Harvey must have been chosen one of the physicians extraordinary to the reigning sovereign, James I. To the promised dignity, however, Harvey did not attain for several years, not till after the demise of James, and when Charles had already occupied the throne of his father for some five or six years.
Harvey may now be said to have become rather closely connected with the court; but whether this connexion proved truly advantageous to him as a philosopher and physiologist may fairly be questioned.
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The time and service which the court physician must necessarily give to royalty and greatness interfere materially with the leisure and privacy that are indispensable to study and meditation. But Harvey, who appears to have been a man of singular self-possession, not to be diverted from his purpose by trifling or merely ceremonial considerations, always speaks of his master Charles in terms of unfeigned love and respect; and everything induces us to believe that Charles in turn loved and honoured his physician.
It was certainly worthy of the Prince who appreciated, whilst he commanded, the talents of a Vandyke and a Rubens, that he also prized and encouraged the less brilliant, but not less useful genius of a Harvey. Harvey, as a physician, must now have been at the zenith of his reputation; he was physician in ordinary to the king, and we have seen him in the same position towards some of the foremost men of the age.
His general practice, too, must have been extensive, and, if we look at the sum he is stated to have left behind him in money, his emoluments large. But he had not any lengthened harvest for all his early pains; his connexion with the court by and by came in the way of his continuing to improve his position; and then, grievous to relate, the appearance of the admirable Exercises on the Heart and Blood gave a decided and severe check to his professional prosperity. I knew several practitioners in this town that would not have given threepence for one of his bills prescriptions , and [who said] that a man could hardly tell by his bills what he did aim at.
He who laid the foundation of modern medical science lost his practice for his pains, and the routineer, with an appropriate salve for every sore, a pill and potion for each particular ache and ail, would not give threepence for one of his prescriptions! Ignorance and presumption have never hesitated to rend the veil that science and modesty, all in supplying the means, have still owned their inability to raise. If Harvey faltered, who of his contemporaries could rightfully presume to walk secure?
And yet did each and all of them, unconscious of the darkness, tread their twilight paths assuredly; whilst he, the divinity among them, with his eyes unsealed, felt little certain of his way. So has it still been with medicine; and the world must make many a lusty onward stride in knowledge before it can be otherwise. Their way probably led them to the Continent, and it may have been on this occasion and in this company that he visited Venice, as we know from himself that he did in the course of one of his journeys. In the early part of Charles determined to visit his ancient kingdom of Scotland, for the ostensible purpose of being crowned King of Scots.
Upon this occasion Harvey accompanied him, as matter of course, we may presume. But the absence of the court from London was not of long duration; and in the early autumn of the same year we are pleased to find Harvey again at his post in St. The only point on which they proved restive, indeed, was the revealment of their SECRETS to the physician; a great outrage in days when every man had his secrets, and felt fully justified in keeping them to himself.
But surgery in the year had not shown any good title to an independent existence. From the year Harvey appears to have devoted much of his time to attendance upon the king and retainers of the court, so that we have little or no particular information of his movements for several years. We know, however, from Aubrey, that he accompanied Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, whose physician he was, in his extraordinary embassy to the emperor, in the year On his return to England, in the winter of , Harvey must have resumed his place near the person of the sovereign, and by and by, as in duty bound, accompanied him on his first hostile expedition into Scotland in , when matters were happily accommodated between the King and his Scottish subjects, whom he had driven to take up arms so righteously in defence of their religious liberties.
Harvey may now be said to have become fairly involved with the Court. He must have held himself exclusively to the discharge of his professional duties. In the course of these he doubtless attended Charles in his third visit to Scotland in the summer of , when he essayed the arts of diplomacy with little better effect than he had already attempted the weight of prerogative in the first, and the force of arms in the second visit. On returning to London in the autumn of the same year, Charles soon brought matters to a crisis between himself and his English subjects, in the persons of their representatives, and nothing soon remained for him but to unfurl his standard and proclaim himself at war with his people.
This was accordingly done in the course of the ensuing summer. But the Parliament did not yet abandon a seeming care of the royal person, and Harvey informs us himself, that he now attended the king, not only with the consent, but by the desire, of the parliament. The battle of Edge-hill, which followed, and in which the sun of fortune shone with a partial and fitful gleam upon the royal arms, is especially interesting to us from our Harvey having been present, though he still took no part in the affair, and seems indeed to have felt very little solicitude either about its progress or its issue, if the account of Aubrey may be credited.
He told me that he withdrew with them under a hedge, and tooke out of his pockett a booke and read. But he had not read very long before a bullet of a great gun grazed on the ground neare him, which made him remove his station. With his fine understanding and freedom from party and sectarian views of every kind, he probably saw that an appeal to arms was not the way for political right to be elicited, or for a sovereign to settle matters with his subjects.
Harvey had certainly no turn for politics,  and when we refer to Aubrey we find that the fight of Edge-hill was hardly ended before our anatomist had crept back into his shell, and become absorbed in the subjects that formed the proper business of his life. I remember he came several times to our college Trin. Oxford, indeed, when the king and court were driven from the metropolis, which was now wholly in the hands of the popular party, became the head-quarters of the royal army and principal residence of the king for several years.
And here Harvey seems to have quietly settled himself down and again turned his attention to his favorite subjects. Nor was the honorary distinction of doctor of physic from the university, which has been mentioned, the only mark of favour he received. Sir Nathaniel Brent, Warden of Merton College, yielding to his natural bias, forsook Oxford when it was garrisoned by the king, and began to take a somewhat active part in the proceedings of the popular party; he came forward in especial as a witness against Archbishop Laud, on the trial of that dignitary.
Merton College being thus left without a head, upon the suggestion, as it is said, of the learned antiquary and mathematician, John Greaves, and in virtue of a letter of the king, Harvey was elected warden some time in the course of This appointment was doubtless merited by Harvey for his constant and faithful service to Charles; but it may also have been bestowed in some measure as a retort upon the Parliament, which, the year before, had entertained a motion for the supercession of Harvey in his office of physician to St.
Sir Nathaniel Brent, on the contrary, returned to Oxford; and the star of the Parliamentarians being now in the ascendant, Merton College was not slow to reinstate its old Presbyterian warden in the room of its late royalist head. From the date of the surrender of Oxford July, , Harvey followed the fortunes of Charles no longer.
Of his reasons for quitting the service of his old master we know nothing. And then Charles had long made it apparent, even to the most ardent of his adherents, that no faith was to be put in his promise, no trust to be reposed in his royal word. The wise old man, verging on the age of threescore years and ten, doubtless saw that it was better for him to retire from a responsible office, now become most irksome and thankless, and seek privacy and leisure for the remainder of his days.
Nor was the love of ease so great in William Harvey, even at the advanced age of seventy-one, if we may credit some of the accounts, as to hinder him from again visiting the Continent, and making his way as far as Italy, a journey in which it is said he was attended by his friend the accomplished scholar and gentleman, Dr.
The year after the publication of the work on Generation, i. Harvey, in acknowledgment, it may have been, of the distinguished honour done him by his friends and colleagues, appears about this time to have commenced the erection at his own cost of a handsome addition to the College of Physicians. On the outside, on the frieze, in letters three inches long, was this inscription: Suasu et cura Fran.
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Prujean, the president of the college, going out of office, as usual, at Michaelmas the next year , Harvey was unanimously chosen to fill the vacant chair. Having been absent when the election took place, a deputation proceeded to his apartments to apprize him of the honour his colleagues had done themselves and him, and to say that they awaited his answer on the following day.
He attended the comitia or assembly of the college next day; thanked his colleagues for the distinguished honour of which they had thought him worthy—the honour, as he said, of filling the foremost place among the physicians of England; but the concerns of the college, he proceeded, were too weighty to be intrusted to one like him, laden with years and infirm in health; and if he might be acquitted of arrogance in presuming to give advice in such circumstances, he would say that the college could not do better than reinstate in the authority which he had but just laid down, their late president, Dr.
Prujean, under whose prudent management and fostering care the affairs of the college had greatly prospered.
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Prujean was forthwith re-elected president. The College of Physicians were justly proud of their great associate, and Harvey, in his turn, was undoubtedly attached to the college. Harvey, we have said, was childless; his wife, though we have not the date of her death, he had certainly lost by this time. His only surviving brother Eliab was rich; his nephews were prosperous merchants and on the road to the independence and titles which several of them afterwards achieved: he, therefore, determined to make the College of Physicians not only heirs to his paternal estate, worth, at that time, 56 l.
This purpose he carried into effect by means of a formal instrument, which he delivered to the college in the month of July, ; the special provisions in the deed settling one sum, by way of salary for the librarian, and another sum, for the delivery of a solemn oration annually, in commemoration of those who had approved themselves benefactors to the college, and, by extension, who had added aught to the sum of medical science in the course of the bygone year.
Having thus accompanied Harvey over so much of the way in his mortal career, let us, before proceeding further, briefly advert to his Writings , to the influence they had in the republic of letters during his life-time, to the fruits they have since produced, and to the impression still made on the mind that holds communion through their means with the mind that dictated them so many years ago. Let us take a brief survey of his writings, then, and wind up our account of his life with such personal notices as we can gather from contemporaries, or as we can infer from his own conduct and written word.
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There is room, therefore, for another interpretation, consonant with reason and with anatomical fact, and susceptible of demonstration by the senses. When he first essayed himself to comprehend the motions of the heart, and to make out the uses of the organ from the dissection of living animals, he found the subject so beset with difficulties that he was almost inclined at one time to say with Fracastorius, that these motions and their purpose could be comprehended by God alone. By degrees, however, by repeating his observations, using greater care, and giving more concentrated attention, he at last discovers a way out of the labyrinth, and a means of explaining simply all that had previously appeared so obscure.
Hence the occasion of his writing. Such is the burthen of the proem and first chapter.