123 William Harvey Facts: The English Physician Who Discovered The Heart

Shirin Biswas
Sep 08, 2022 By Shirin Biswas
Originally Published on Dec 02, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Read these William Harvey facts to learn about his early life at Folkstone, his education, and his career as a physician.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.8 Min

William Harvey was born in the year 1578 and went on to become one of England's most respected physicians.

Known for his numerous contributions such as his discovery of the human heart's functions and the formation of animals from their embryonic stages, William Harvey is fondly remembered to date. He is most commonly remembered for his research in the understanding of how blood is transported in the human body.

Harvey was born in an aristocratic family and went on to acquire a degree of Doctor of Medicine from Italy. On his return to England, Harvey chose to live in London, where he quickly rose to fame due to his knowledge of surgery and human anatomy.

Harvey was particularly gifted and served as the King's physician for King James I. He was also the attending physician for King Charles I and followed him to Oxford.

His career in human physiology was aided by his marriage to Elizabeth Browne. After his return from Oxford, William Harvey decidedly stepped out of the public limelight and chose to live the rest of his life with his brothers. Keep reading to learn more interesting facts about William Harvey.

If you enjoyed reading this article, why not also check out Marie Curie facts and Aristotle facts here on Kidadl!

Fun Facts About William Harvey

William Harvey was one of the 10 children that Thomas Harvey and Joane Halke had.

Born on April 1 in the year 1578, William Harvey enjoyed the privileges of being born to a wealthy family and eventually went on to study medicine. Harvey had seven brothers and two sisters, and he was the one who gained the most fame and popularity amongst all of them.

Thomas Harvey was a very wealthy businessman and later went on to become the Mayor of Folkstone. Even though he was born in Folkstone, Harvey established himself as a physician in London.

William Harvey went to school in the King's School in Canterbury. He lived with one of his uncles during his schooling and later applied for the Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge at the age of 15.

Harvey graduated in the year 1597, with a degree of Bachelor of Arts. It was at this point in his life that he decided to pursue medicine and went to Italy to study.

He enrolled in the University of Padua in the year 1599 and graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in the year 1597.

Having graduated as a Doctor of Medicine at the age of 24, William Harvey began his career in the studies of the human body. On his return to England from Italy, he was also awarded the title of Doctor of Medicine by Cambridge University.

One of the fun facts about William Harvey is that his initial degree was of a Bachelor of Arts. He later went on to acquire a medicine degree and the rest is history.

Facts About William Harvey's Education

Harvey's work is very famous, and he was highly educated.

Having gone to the King's School in Canterbury. Harvey decided to apply for the Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge.

It was after he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Gonville and Caius College that he decided to pursue medicine. Born in a wealthy family and to a father who was a very wealthy businessman, going abroad for his studies was not an impossible feat for William Harvey.

He went to Italy after graduating in the year 1597 and enrolled in an institution known as the University of Padua.

Here, he studied medicine and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine. We can very well imagine that becoming a Doctor of Medicine at the age of 24 was a brilliant feat for anyone to achieve in the 17th century, but William Harvey was always known to excel in his field of study.

A few years after his return from Italy, Harvey also began his career as a lecturer and imparted the knowledge that he had gained in Italy to his own students. He became a Lumleian lecturer and was known for his expertise in human anatomy as well as in surgery.

He became a lecturer in the year 1615, and through his years of experience at work, he gained a lot of fame.

His fame eventually translated to his being named as the physician to King James I. He was so famous for his work that on several occasions, aristocrats like his own father went on to especially request his supervision in medical matters.

William Harvey was fond of carrying out research through the dissection of human bodies.

Facts About William Harvey's Accomplishments

With his name associated and closely linked with notable figures such as King Charles I and King James I, it can be said that William Harvey was a very accomplished man.

Harvey's accomplishments started in the year 1597 when he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree. This was followed by receiving a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Padua, as well as by Cambridge University.

Being established in London, William Harvey was also appointed to hold a position at the prestigious St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He also joined the Royal College of Physicians, after he moved to London in the year 1604.

It was therefore only fitting that he would quickly rise to fame - given the gift he had in medicine.

He was also chosen as the Censor of the College of Physicians no less than three times. He was selected for this position in the years 1613, 1625, and 1629.

Harvey was an expert when it came to teaching surgery. He had also mastered in terms of human anatomy and served as a Lumleian lecturer. Well known for his excellence and expertise, Harvey was appointed 'Physician Extraordinary' of King James I. This was no ordinary feat, and Harvey learned about the perks of holding such a position soon enough.

Harvey was also the attending physician of King Charles I. When King Charles I went to Oxford, William Harvey accompanied him. Harvey was also named the Doctor of Physic in the year 1642, and shortly afterward, in 1645, he was appointed as the Warden of Merton College, Oxford.

William Harvey's accomplishments cannot be summed up without his almost appropriate understanding of blood circulation in the human body.

Harvey tracked blood movement in humans and other animals and said that while arterial blood went to all the parts of the body, human veins carried the blood back to the heart. Harvey's research was initially contested and termed invalid, but his observations were later widely accepted.

What we learn in schools today about arteries, arterial blood, and pulmonary veins comes from Willian Harvey's research.

His observations became the stepping stones for people to develop theories. Additionally, it was due to his meticulous and thorough research, that Harvey was able to refute Galen's theory that the body made new blood as it used up the old.

He proved that the heart was a pump that pushed the blood around the body through arteries and that the blood was returned to the heart through the veins.

William Harvey also wrote medical textbooks, which also faced some criticism in the beginning but were eventually accepted for the knowledge that they imparted. Harvey wrote Anatomical Studies on the Motion of Heart and Blood in Animals in the year 1628.

He was the first person to define how blood flowed in the human body and how the arteries and veins formed an entire network that would purify the blood.

Harvey also write Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium in the year 1651, in which he talked about embryonic development in animals.

He talked about how even though new animals do develop from the ovum, they are not actually present there beforehand. This observation was understandably quite opposed to the age-old ideas, and hence, William Harvey had to go through many types of research and clarifications in order to convince people of the merit.

Facts About William Harvey's Contributions

William Harvey's contributions were manifold and hence, he is celebrated to the present day.

Having started his journey at the St. Bartholomew's Hospital, William Harvey quickly rose to the position of head physician in the year 1609. Harvey served the King of England and came up with many new observations in the field of medicine.

His observations of how blood was transported in the whole body and how new organisms developed from their embryonic stage were truly game-changing. He defined blood circulation and the anatomy of the human heart in such a way that nobody had ever tried to before.

Harvey published two books that became the Holy Grail for upcoming medical students in England, and hence, his contributions are beyond something which can be counted by hand. His marriage to Elizabeth Browne is known to have been one of the factors which helped him in making the impact that he did in England and all around the world.

William Harvey later went on to step away from the public limelight and chose a life of partial solitude.

It is said that his decision to withdraw from public life came after he came back from Oxford. He died in 1657 after having a stroke.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 123 William Harvey facts, then why not take a look at William Bligh facts, or William Blake facts. 

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Written by Shirin Biswas

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Shirin Biswas picture

Shirin BiswasBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

With a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, Shirin has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing. She has a wealth of experience as an English teacher, editor, and writer, having previously worked at Quizzy and Big Books Publishing. Her expertise lies in editing study guides for children and creating engaging content.

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Fact-checked by Niyati Parab

Bachelor of Commerce

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Niyati ParabBachelor of Commerce

With a background in digital marketing, Niyati brings her expertise to ensure accuracy and authenticity in every piece of content. She has previously written articles for MuseumFacts, a history web magazine, while also handling its digital marketing. In addition to her marketing skills, Niyati is fluent in six languages and has a Commerce degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University. She has also been recognized for her public speaking abilities, holding the position of Vice President of Education at the Toastmasters Club of Pune, where she won several awards and represented the club in writing and speech contests at the area level.

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