The Conception of Blood
The way science has progressed over the past centuries is that there has been a continuous overthrowing of older theories by newer once typically because there is a scientific breakthrough brought about by new discoveries that affirm new hypotheses. A very popular example of this is the discovery that the sun is the center of the solar system which overthrew the widespread belief that the earth was the center. It is by the development of new ways to find evidence and thus new ways to uncover knowledge which has enabled human beings to debunk popular knowledge and establish sounder approaches to understanding the world around us. This same process is applicable to what happened to the scientific discipline of anatomy. One notable thread of development is in blood circulation, which is one of the main concerns when talking about the body and its functions. In the following discussion we will be tackling the perspective or point of view of two prominent philosophers who had a great impact on blood circulation as we know it today.
In Rene Descartes’ The Description of the Human Body or La description du corps humain, he posited that the soul caused the conscious thought of the body and induced the automatic operation of different organs in the human anatomy. Automatic operations here pertain to examples such as the beating of the heart and the digestion of food. With this, Descartes was under the belief that the body can still exist even through mere mechanical operations. With blood circulation included, the body functions as a machine, the operation of which is powered by the heart. The heat of the heart is what causes all mobility in the body, and this includes those that are voluntary and involuntary as well. Descartes also believed that blood vessels are structured as pipes and that veins specifically bring digested food to the heart to keep it functioning.
In the De Motu Cordis or also known as the ‘On the Motion of the Heart and Blood’, Harvey explained that blood moves around the body as if it passes through a network of blood vessels and veins that form a circuitry. Working with such a theory, Harvey gave a very accurate depiction of the relationship and function of the heart with the rest of the body, and was then regarded as one of the biggest and ground- breaking contributions to biology. Harvey conducted experiments on animals, dissecting their hearts and other internal organs in order to be studied and observed. Harvey also was the first to theorize about capillaries, which after his death was discovered by Marcello Malpighi. The rigorous approach that Harvey had on his experiments has proven to have made contributions to the acceptance of most of his conclusions, even if his new theories were then met with controversy. With further research by contemporaries, Harvey’s hypotheses were eventually affirmed by the majority of the scientific community.
Differences and Disagreements
The difference from Descartes and Harvey is that the latter drawn upon philosophical argument to theorize about the relationship of the heart to the body and minimal empirical data unlike Harvey which in his publication used animals as test subjects, making his theory based upon empirical and thus more scientific data. The disagreement with Harvey’s theories was due to the predominant orientation of the scientific community towards Galen’s writings on the subject. In response, Harvey discovered a lot of significant things, such as the fact that the ventricles contract together, debunking one of Galen’s theories saying that blood is being induced to go from one ventricle to another. Galen’s theory also indicated that the septum of the heart contained perforations, but Harvey’s experiments revealed what we now commonly refer to as the arteries and veins.
Descartes, Rene. Description of the human body. InteLex, 1985.
Gorham, G. Mind-body dualism and the Harvey-Descartes controversy.Journal of the History of Ideas, 55(2), 211-234, 1994.
Harvey, William. "An anatomical disquisition on the motion of the heart and blood in animal," 1962.
Cooter, Roger. "Separate spheres and public places: Reflections on the history of science popularization and science in popular culture." History of science 32.97: 237-267, 1994.
Harvey, William. On the Motion of the Heart & Blood in Animals. Vol. 1. Bell, 1889.
Do not know exactly what you need?
If you have some complicated task to be handled and have doubts that we can complete it – send us your paper details and we will find the most appropriate writer for you! Without any extra charge!Evaluate