7 - Overseas  pp. 150-178


By Roger French

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Introduction: Descartes and Bartholin

Many people did not first encounter Harvey's doctrines in his book, but by reading or hearing other people's reports or versions of them. There were two main vehicles of this sort that carried the forceful pulse and circulation over Europe. One was Descartes' new mechanical natural philosophy. We shall examine it in the next chapter. The other was the report by Joannes Walaeus on experiments he had made to support Harvey's conclusions. This report first appeared as appendix to an anatomy text which had been written by Caspar Bartholin and was being brought up to date by his son Thomas. In one form or another Walaeus' report reached at least eleven editions, and Thomas' book, favourable to Harvey and often carrying Walaeus' appendix, was translated into all European languages and even into Chinese. It clearly had an important role in the ultimate acceptance of Harvey's doctrines: we must look at the genesis of Bartholin's book.

Communication and consensus: two controversies

In England Harvey, Read, Primrose, Winston, Fludd and others were known to each other and were in a position to discuss the circulation. Overseas, however, the formation of any consensus depended upon means of communication, which become important in our study.

Travel was important in communication. Harvey himself travelled widely in Europe (but not for academic reasons) and found himself arguing about the circulation from time to time. More characteristically, students travelled to one or more distant universities, and sometimes young men whose formal education was complete would take something of a Tour.