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History

Renaissance medical knowledge

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Development through time and question

The discovery of the circulation of the blood is an excellent example of how knowledge can accumulate over time

Discovering the circulation of blood through time

NameDateWho Contribution to debateInfluence
Start point - Galen c.200 Doctor in Rome Said blood passes through the septum [Septum: A thin membrane which separates two cavities (eg between the nostrils of the nose) or two masses of tissue (eg between the sections of the heart). ], and the heart pumps it to the muscles, where it is burned up. Main authority for 1,500 years
Ibn an Nafis c.1250 Persian doctor Said blood does not go through the septum, and is pumped past the lungs. Muslim doctor, not known in Europe
Leonardo da Vinci d. 1519Artist Made detailed drawings of the anatomy of the heart. Drawings not discovered until 1850
Vesalius 1543Professor at Padua Said blood does not pass through the septum.Well-know anatomical textbook
Servetusd.1553 Italian preacherSaid blood does go through the septum, and is pumped past the lungs.No effect - burned as a heretic
Columbo1559Professor at PaduaSaid blood does not go through the septum, and is pumped past the lungs.William Harvey read his book
Caesalpino1571Professor at PisaFirst used the word 'circulation' in relation to blood, but could not explain the process.William Harvey did not know of his book
Fabricius1603Professor at PaduaDiscovered valves in the veins only allow the blood to go one way.William Harvey's teacher at university
William Harvey - End point 1628London doctorProved that blood circulates round the body, and described how it happened. 
Question

Use the table to study development through time by identifying:

  1. an example of an error that lasted many years
  2. discoveries that had no effect on the development of knowledge
  3. examples of ideas that had an effect because they were disseminated
  4. the effect of education and training
  5. the 'pathway of knowledge' that led to Harvey's discovery, excluding all the false starts and people who had no effect

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Answer
  1. an example of an error that lasted many years
    • Galen's idea that the heart pumped out blood to be burned up in the muscles
  2. discoveries that had no effect on the development of knowledge about medicine
    • Nafis (Muslim; not known) / da Vinci (lost) / Servetus (burned) / Caesalpino (not known)
  3. examples of ideas that had an effect because they were disseminated
    • Vesalius and Columbo - wrote books read by Harvey
  4. the effect of education and training
    • Fabricius was Harvey's tutor - his discovery of valves was vital for Harvey's discovery
  5. the 'pathway of knowledge' that led to Harvey's discovery (excluding all the false starts and people who had no effect)
    • start point: Galen - blood passes through the septum and is pumped out to be burned up in the muscles
    • Vesalius - blood does not pass through the septum
    • Columbo - blood is pumped past the lungs
    • Fabricius - valves mean blood can only go one way through the veins
    • Harvey - blood cannot be produced fast enough to burn it up - leads to understanding of circulation of blood

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