THE DIARY OF WILLIAM HARVEY: The Imaginary Journal of the Physician Who Revolutionized Medicine by Jean Hamburger

THE DIARY OF WILLIAM HARVEY: The Imaginary Journal of the Physician Who Revolutionized Medicine

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An evocative, appreciative rendering of the advanced years of William Harvey, renowned for his work on the circulation of the blood, from the late French physician and respected researcher Hamburger (Discovering the Individual, 1978, etc.). Harvey appears in these imagined entries as a feisty but melancholic man in his 70s, writing not only his views on medicine and the controversy over his theory of the heart as the means by which blood is circulated through the body, but also on the political turmoil involving Cromwell and King Charles I during the Civil War in England, which threatened him directly as the King's personal physician. With copious notes and based closely on what remains of Harvey's writings, the diary covers only seven years (1647-54) but ranges widely over a lifetime of memories and accomplishments, alternating observations on embryo development with descriptions of various journeys on the continent--to Italy in search of art to add to royal collections, or across Europe from Paris to Prague to meet with critics and allies in their hope of advancing acceptance of his research. Evidence of the most prominent thinkers of the day abounds, especially Thomas Hobbes (as correspondent and friend) and Francis Bacon (portrayed as a fraud), but with lively glimpses of famous artists, scientists, and ecclesiastics offered also. The journal returns consistently to the treatment accorded the English King, however, and the arrest and execution of Charles is painted in florid detail as a national tragedy deeply offensive to Harvey's sense of reason and humanity. Immensely informative--and for anyone able to accept the basic conceit of a 20th-century doctor putting words in the mouth of a 17th-century luminary of medicine, a fascinating, satisfying story as well.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 255pp
Publisher: Rutgers Univ. Press