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In the early 17th century, the principles of the Roman philosopher Galen still reigned supreme.
He then studied medicine at the University of Padua in Italy, where the scientist and surgeon Hieronymus Fabricius tutored him.
But Thomas Wright’s lively little book on Harvey’s revolutionary idea is a panegyric to the man’s whirring mind, and to the excitements of thinking more generally.
Born in 1578 into a long line of prosperous Kent sheep farmers, Harvey was a member of the yeoman class from which it was possible for a hard-working and talented youth to rise to gentlemanly status.
Fabricius, who was fascinated by anatomy, recognised that the veins in the human body had one-way valves, but was puzzled as to their function.
It was Harvey who took the foundation of Fabricius's teaching, and went on to solve the riddle of what part the valves played in the circulation of blood through the body.