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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > William Harvey Quotes

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William Harvey
(1 Apr 1578 - 3 Jun 1657)

English physician who discovered the true nature of the circulation of the blood and of the function of the heart as a pump. He used experimental research to challenge the prevailing medical theories from ancient Greece, dogmatically followed in Europe and the Middle East since they were written by Galen 1,400 years before.

Science Quotes by William Harvey (17 quotes)

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Painting of William Harvey, head and shoulders, facing right
William Harvey (source)

Ex ovo omnia.
Everything out of the egg.
— William Harvey
Inscribed on an egg, held by Zeus, in the title page illustration of Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium (Disputations Touching the Generation of Animals, 1651). Harvey did not use that epigram elsewhere in his text, but explained the concept in longer sentence form. (See the quote on this webpage that begins: “We, however, maintain…”.) Later literature popularized the aphorism as omne vivum ex ovo, (all life from the egg), as it is now seen, for example, in Werner Müller, Developmental Biology (1996), 4. In the engraved illustration, the egg is a rather small detail, opened as two hollow half-shells, with various life forms emerging therefrom: human, reptile, mammal, fish, insect, and leaves. Compare the aphorism originated by François-Vincent Raspail, which was popularized by Rudolf Virchow, omnis cellula e cellula, (every living thing from an egg), and Louis Pasteur’s motto, Omne vivum e vivo, (every living thing from a living thing).
Science quotes on:  |  Egg (45)  |  Origin Of Life (35)

Although it be a known thing subscribed by all, that the foetus assumes its origin and birth from the male and female, and consequently that the egge is produced by the cock and henne, and the chicken out of the egge, yet neither the schools of physicians nor Aristotle’s discerning brain have disclosed the manner how the cock and its seed doth mint and coin the chicken out of the egge.
— William Harvey
As quoted in John Arthur Thomson, The Science of Life: An Outline of the History of Biology and Its Recent Advances (1899), 126.
Science quotes on:  |  Aristotle (163)  |  Birth (93)  |  Brain (213)  |  Chicken (7)  |  Cock (4)  |  Coin (12)  |  Discerning (7)  |  Disclose (12)  |  Egg (45)  |  Female (24)  |  Foetus (5)  |  Hen (7)  |  Male (26)  |  Manner (57)  |  Mint (4)  |  Origin Of Life (35)  |  Physician (243)  |  Produce (102)  |  School (119)  |  Seed (63)

And so I conclude that blood lives and is nourished of itself and in no way depends on any other part of the body as being prior to it or more excellent... So that from this we may perceive the causes not only of life in general... but also of longer or shorter life, of sleeping and waking, of skill, of strength and so forth.
— William Harvey
Disputations Touching the Generation of Animals (1651), trans. Gweneth Whitteridge (1981), Chapter 52, 247. Alternate translation: “We conclude that blood lives of itself and that it depends in no ways upon any parts of the body. Blood is the cause not only of life in general, but also of longer or shorter life, of sleep and waking, of genius, aptitude, and strength. It is the first to live and the last to die.”
Science quotes on:  |  Blood (104)  |  Life (1131)

Everyone admits that the male is the primary efficient cause in generation, as being that in whom the species or form resides, and they further assert that his genitures emitted in coitus causes the egg both to exist and to be fertile. But how the semen of the cock produces the chick from the egg, neither the philosophers nor the physicians of yesterday or today have satisfactorily explained, or solved the problem formulated by Aristotle.
— William Harvey
Disputations Touching the Generation of Animals (1651), trans. Gweneth Whitteridge (1981), Chapter 47, 214.
Science quotes on:  |  Aristotle (163)  |  Egg (45)  |  Fertilization (15)  |  Reproduction (61)

I finally saw that the blood, forced by the action of the left ventricle into the arteries, was distributed to the body at large, and its several parts, in the same manner as it is sent through the lungs, impelled by the right ventricle into the pulmonary artery, and that it then passed through the veins and along the vena cava, and so round to the left ventricle in the manner already indicated. Which motion we may be allowed to call circular, in the same way as Aristotle says that the air and the rain emulate the circular motion of the superior bodies; for the moist earth, warmed by the sun, evaporates; the vapours drawn upwards are condensed, and descending in the form of rain, moisten the earth again; and by this arrangement are generations of living things produced.
— William Harvey
From William Harvey and Robert Willis (trans.), The Works of William Harvey, M.D. (1847), 46.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (190)  |  Aristotle (163)  |  Arrangement (60)  |  Artery (9)  |  Blood (104)  |  Body (247)  |  Circular (5)  |  Earth (638)  |  Emulate (2)  |  Evaporate (5)  |  Generation (141)  |  Impelled (2)  |  Living (56)  |  Lung (19)  |  Moist (3)  |  Motion (160)  |  Produced (8)  |  Rain (33)  |  Sun (276)  |  Superior (41)  |  Thing (37)  |  Upwards (6)  |  Vapour (9)  |  Vein (13)  |  Ventricle (5)

I profess to learn and to teach anatomy not from books but from dissections, not from the tenets of Philosophers but from the fabric of Nature.
— William Harvey
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth J. Franklin (1957), Dedication to Doctor Argent, 7.
Science quotes on:  |  Anatomy (63)  |  Book (257)  |  Dissection (29)

In attempting to discover how much blood passes from the veins into the arteries I made dissections of living animals, opened up arteries in them, and carried out various other investigations. I also considered the symmetry and size of the ventricles of the heart and of the vessels which enter and leave them (since Nature, who does nothing purposelessly, would not purposelessly have given these vessels such relatively large size). I also recalled the elegant and carefully contrived valves and fibres and other structural artistry of the heart; and many other points. I considered rather often and with care all this evidence, and took correspondingly long trying to assess how much blood was transmitted and in how short a time. I also noted that the juice of the ingested food could not supply this amount without our having the veins, on the one hand, completely emptied and the arteries, on the other hand, brought to bursting through excessive inthrust of blood, unless the blood somehow flowed back again from the arteries into the veins and returned to the right ventricle of the heart. In consequence, I began privately to consider that it had a movement, as it were, in a circle.
— William Harvey
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth j. Franklin (1957), Chapter 8, 57-8.
Science quotes on:  |  Blood (104)  |  Circulation (19)  |  Heart (139)

In man, then, let us take the amount that is extruded by the individual beats, and that cannot return into the heart because of the barrier set in its way by the valves, as half an ounce, or three drachms, or at least one drachm. In half an hour the heart makes over a thousand beats; indeed, in some individuals, and on occasion, two, three, or four thousand. If you multiply the drachms per beat by the number of beats you will see that in half an hour either a thousand times three drachms or times two drachms, or five hundred ounces, or other such proportionate quantity of blood has been passed through the heart into the arteries, that is, in all cases blood in greater amount than can be found in the whole of the body. Similarly in the sheep or the dog. Let us take it that one scruple passes in a single contraction of the heart; then in half an hour a thousand scruples, or three and a half pounds of blood, do so. In a body of this size, as I have found in the sheep, there is often not more than four pounds of blood.
In the above sort of way, by calculating the amount of blood transmitted [at each heart beat] and by making a count of the beats, let us convince ourselves that the whole amount of the blood mass goes through the heart from the veins to the arteries and similarly makes the pulmonary transit.
Even if this may take more than half an hour or an hour or a day for its accomplishment, it does nevertheless show that the beat of the heart is continuously driving through that organ more blood than the ingested food can supply, or all the veins together at any time contain.
— William Harvey
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth J. Franklin (1957), Chapter 9, 62-3.
Science quotes on:  |  Blood (104)  |  Circulation (19)  |  Heart (139)

It is, however, an argument of no weight to say that natural bodies are first generated or compounded out of those things into which they are at the last broken down or dissolved.
— William Harvey
Disputations Touching the Generation of Animals (1651), trans. Gweneth Whitteridge (1981), Chapter 72, 389.
Science quotes on:  |  Matter (343)

Nature is nowhere accustomed more openly to display her secret mysteries than in cases where she shows tracings of her workings apart from the beaten paths; nor is there any better way to advance the proper practice of medicine than to give our minds to the discovery of the usual law of nature, by careful investigation of cases of rarer forms of disease.
— William Harvey
Letter IX, to John Vlackveld (24 Apr 1657), in The Circulation of the Blood (2006), 200.
Science quotes on:  |  Disease (275)  |  Medicine (344)  |  Nature (1223)

The animal's heart is the basis of its life, its chief member, the sun of its microcosm; on the heart all its activity depends, from the heart all its liveliness and strength arise. Equally is the king the basis of his kingdoms, the sun of his microcosm, the heart of the state; from him all power arises and all grace stems.
— William Harvey
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth j. Franklin (1957), Dedication to the King, 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Heart (139)

The blood in the animal body is impelled in a circle and is in a state of ceaseless motion … and that it is the sole and only end of the motion and contraction of the heart.
— William Harvey
In On the Motion of the Heart and Blood (1628) as in edition based on the translation by Willis, Alex. Bowie (ed.), (1889), 71.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (359)  |  Blood (104)  |  Body (247)  |  Ceaseless (6)  |  Circle (56)  |  Contraction (8)  |  End (195)  |  Heart (139)  |  Impel (5)  |  Motion (160)  |  Sole (21)  |  State (137)

There is no science which does not spring from pre-existing knowledge, and no certain and definite idea which has not derived its origin from the senses.
— William Harvey
In Willis (trans.) and Alex Bowie (trans.), 'The First Anatomical Disquisition on the Circulation of the Blood, Addressed to Jo. Riolan', On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals (1889), 93.
Science quotes on:  |  Certain (126)  |  Definite (43)  |  Derive (33)  |  Idea (580)  |  Knowledge (1306)  |  Origin (88)  |  Pre-existing (2)  |  Science (2067)  |  Sense (321)  |  Spring (71)

This organ deserves to be styled the starting point of life and the sun of our microcosm just as much as the sun deserves to be styled the heart of the world. For it is by the heart's vigorous beat that the blood is moved, perfected, activated, and protected from injury and coagulation. The heart is the tutelary deity of the body, the basis of life, the source of all things, carrying out its function of nourishing, warming, and activating body as a whole. But we shall more fittingly speak of these matters when we consider the final cause of this kind of movement.
— William Harvey
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth J. Franklin (1957), Chapter 8, 59. Alternate translation: “The heart is the beginning of life; the sun of the microcosm, even as the sun in his turn might well be designated the heart of the world; for it is the heart by whose virtue and pulse the blood is moved, perfected, made apt to nourish, and is preserved from corruption and coagulation; it is the household divinity which, discharging its function, nourishes, cherishes, quickens the whole body, and is indeed the foundation of life, the source of all action. … The heart, like the prince in a kingdom, in whose hands lie the chief highest authority, rules over all; it is the original and foundation from which all power is derived, on which all power depends in the animal body.” In translation by Geoffrey Keynes (1953), 59.
Science quotes on:  |  Blood (104)  |  Circulation (19)  |  Heart (139)

We, however, maintain … that all animals whatsoever, even the viviparous, and man himself not excepted, are produced from ova; that the first conception, from which the foetus proceeds in all, is an ovum of one description or another, as well as the seeds of all kinds of plants.
— William Harvey
As translated by Robert Willis in The Works of William Harvey (1847), Vol. 7, 170. Harvey’s doctrine, given herein, has been summarized in later literature as: omne vivum ex ovo omnia, (all life from an egg). Also see the quote “Ex ova omnia,” elsewhere on this webpage.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (359)  |  Conception (92)  |  Egg (45)  |  Foetus (5)  |  Man (373)  |  Plant (200)  |  Proceed (42)  |  Produce (102)  |  Seed (63)  |  Viviparous (2)

What remains to be said is of so novel and unheard of a character that I not only fear injury to myself from the envy of a few, but I tremble lest I have mankind at large for my enemies, so much to wont and custom that become as another nature, and doctrine once sown that hath struck deep root, and respect for antiquity, influence all men.
— William Harvey
In On the Motion of the Heart and Blood (1628) as in edition based on the translation by Willis, Alex. Bowie (ed.), (1889), 47.
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When in many dissections, carried out as opportunity offered upon living animals, I first addressed my mind to seeing how I could discover the function and offices of the heart’s movement in animals through the use of my own eyes instead of through the books and writings of others, I kept finding the matter so truly hard and beset with difficulties that I all but thought, with Fracastoro, that the heart's movement had been understood by God alone.
— William Harvey
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth J. Franklin (1957), Chapter 1, author's motives for writing, 23.
Science quotes on:  |  Dissection (29)  |  Heart (139)

Quotes by others about William Harvey (12)

And when with excellent Microscopes I discern in otherwise invisible Objects the Inimitable Subtlety of Nature’s Curious Workmanship; And when, in a word, by the help of Anatomicall Knives, and the light of Chymicall Furnaces, I study the Book of Nature, and consult the Glosses of Aristotle, Epicurus, Paracelsus, Harvey, Helmont, and other learn'd Expositors of that instructive Volumne; I find my self oftentimes reduc’d to exclaim with the Psalmist, How manifold are thy works, O Lord? In wisdom hast thou made them all.
Some Motives and Incentives to the Love of God (1659), 56-7.
Science quotes on:  |  Aristotle (163)  |  Book Of Nature (6)  |  God (535)  |  Jan Baptista van Helmont (6)  |  Microscope (74)  |  Nature (1223)  |  Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus (19)  |  Research (590)

In science, address the few; in literature, the many. In science, the few must dictate opinion to the many; in literature, the many, sooner or later, force their judgement on the few. But the few and the many are not necessarily the few and the many of the passing time: for discoverers in science have not un-often, in their own day, had the few against them; and writers the most permanently popular not unfrequently found, in their own day, a frigid reception from the many. By the few, I mean those who must ever remain the few, from whose dieta we, the multitude, take fame upon trust; by the many, I mean those who constitute the multitude in the long-run. We take the fame of a Harvey or a Newton upon trust, from the verdict of the few in successive generations; but the few could never persuade us to take poets and novelists on trust. We, the many, judge for ourselves of Shakespeare and Cervantes.
Caxtoniana: A Series of Essays on Life, Literature, and Manners (1863), Vol. 2, 329- 30.
Science quotes on:  |  Literature (79)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (333)  |  Poet (83)  |  Science (2067)  |  William Shakespeare (102)

Coy Nature, (which remain'd, though aged grown,
A beauteous virgin still, enjoy'd by none,
Nor seen unveil'd by anyone),
When Harvey's violent passion she did see,
Began to tremble and to flee;
Took sanctuary, like Daphne, in a tree:
There Daphne’s Lover stopped, and thought it much
The very leaves of her to touch:
But Harvey, our Apollo, stopp’d not so;
Into the Bark and Root he after her did go!
'Ode Upon Dr Harvey' (1663). In The British Poets: Including Translations in One Hundred Volumes (1822), Vol. 13, 245.
Science quotes on:  |  Nature (1223)  |  Poetry (124)

He [William Harvey] bid me to goe to the Fountain-head, and read Aristotle, Cicero, Avicenna, and did call the Neoteriques shitt-breeches.
Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 129.
Science quotes on:  |  Aristotle (163)  |  Avicenna (19)  |  Marcus Tullius Cicero (34)

I have heard him [William Harvey] say, that after his Booke of the Circulation of the Blood came-out, that he fell mightily in his Practize, and that 'twas beleeved by the vulgar that he was crack-brained.
Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 131.
Science quotes on:  |  Blood (104)  |  Circulation (19)

He [William Harvey] did not care for chymistrey, and was wont to speake against them with an undervalue.
Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 132.
Science quotes on:  |  Chemistry (252)

Only by following out the injunction of our great predecessor [William Harvey] to search out and study the secrets of Nature by way of experiment, can we hope to attain to a comprehension of 'the wisdom of the body and the understanding of the heart,' and thereby to the mastery of disease and pain, which will enable us to relieve the burden of mankind.
'The Wisdom of the Body', The Lancet (1923), 205, 870.
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Power politics existed before Machiavelli was ever heard of; it will exist long after his name is only a faint memory. What he did, like Harvey, was to recognize its existence and subject it to scientific study.
The Prince and the Discourses by Niccolò Machiavelli, with an Introduction by Max Lerner (1950), xliii.
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… our “Physick” and “Anatomy” have embraced such infinite varieties of being, have laid open such new worlds in time and space, have grappled, not unsuccessfully, with such complex problems, that the eyes of Vesalius and of Harvey might be dazzled by the sight of the tree that has grown out of their grain of mustard seed.
A Lay Sermon, delivered at St. Martin's Hall (7 Jan 1866), 'On the Advisableness of Improving Natural Knowledge', published in The Fortnightly Review (1866), Vol. 3, 629.
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Seeing and thinking have done much for human progress; in the sphere of mind and morals everything, and could the world have been saved by armchair philosophy, the Greeks would have done it; but only a novum organon could do this, the powerful possibilities of which were only revealed when man began to search our the secrets of nature by way of experiment, to use the words of Harvey.
Address at the opening of the new Pathological Institute of the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow (4 Oct 1911). Printed in 'The Pathological Institute of a General Hospital', Glasgow Medical Journal (1911), 76, 326.
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The Chinese, who aspire to be thought an enlightened nation, to this day are ignorant of the circulation of the blood; and even in England the man who made that noble discovery lost all his practice in the consequence of his ingenuity; and Hume informs us that no physician in the United Kingdom who had attained the age of forty ever submitted to become a convert to Harvey’s theory, but went on preferring numpsimus to sumpsimus to the day of his death.
Reflection 352, in Lacon: or Many things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think (1820), 164-165.
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One of the greatest experimental scientists of the time who was really doing something, William Harvey, said that what Bacon said science was, was the science that a lord-chancellor would do. He [Bacon] spoke of making observations, but omitted the vital factor of judgment about what to observe and what to pay attention to.
From address (1966) at the 14th Annual Convention of the National Science Teachers Association, New York City, printed in 'What is science?', The Physics Teacher (1969), 7, No. 6, 321.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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