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Claudius Galen and the history of blood circulation.

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Introduction

Until the early 17th century Claudius Galen's (c. AD129 - 216) books were still being used in some medical schools. Although some had proved some of his ideas to be incorrect, Galen's explanation of the heart was still preferred by most doctors. It was William Harvey (1578-1657) who proved that Galen was wrong and so made one of the most famous of medical discoveries. Harvey was a doctor at St. Bartholomew's hospital in London and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He was also the physician to James I and Charles I. ...read more.

Middle

Harvey realised that these valves stopped the blood from travelling back the wrong way to the heart. Galen's theory (that the body made new blood as its supplies were used up, using food it had ingested) was proved wrong. In 1628, Harvey published details of his work in his book entitled 'An Anatomical Disquisition on the Movement of the Heart and Blood.' Harvey's work made little difference to general medical practice at the time. Blood letting continued to be a popular practice and it was not until the 20th century that doctors realised the importance of checking a patient's blood flow by taking a pulse. ...read more.

Conclusion

Being a doctor at a gladiator school gave Galen the opportunity to develop his interest in anatomy and skills as a surgeon. He dissected pigs, goats and apes and applied what he had learnt to the human body. Galen's ideas dominated medicine throughout the Middle Ages. He discovered that blood moved in the body, although he did not know that it circulated. To help with the diagnosis of patients, Galen took their pulse, a practice that is still used today. His drawing of the heart was studied by doctors until the 16th century. Sketch of valves on the arms from William Harvey's book Galens dissection of a pig ...read more.

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