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William Harvey and the circulation of the blood.

  • Dale, Henry H. 1875-1968.
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Credit: William Harvey and the circulation of the blood. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

About this work


This is the first edition of one of the most notable films in the history of medical and scientific film (subsequent editions; 1957, 1971-72, 1978), made to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the publication of Harvey's "Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cardis et Sanguinis" (1628). Against the historical background of classical Galenic and Renaissance cardio-vascular anatomy and physiology, Henry Dale re-enacts Harvey's physiological experiments demonstrating the circualtion of the blood in animals and men, while the captions re-trace Harvey's experimental reasoning as given in Robert Willis' 1847 translation of "De Motu Cordis". A fascinating demonstration of experimental-physiological method and an extremley powerful affirmation of historical continuity in the research methods of modern medical science, symbolized by the famous trompe d'oeil fusion of Henry Dale's and Harvey's hands in the opening and closing frames.


UK : Royal College of Physicians of London, 1928.

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (47.48 min.) : silent, black and white



Copyright note

Wellcome Trust.

Terms of use

Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales

Language note

In English.

Creator/production credits

Henry Dale and Sir Thomas Lewis for the Royal College of Physicians of London.


Copy [formerly the property of the late Lady Lewis] given to the Trust by Dr. C.J. Lawrence (W.I.H.M.) in October 1990. Copies of Dale and Lewis' 1928 synopsis of the film's contents available from the Trust on request.
See Christopher Lawrence, "Cinema Verite? The Image of William Harvey's Experiments in 1628", N. Rupke (Ed.), "Vivisection in Historical Perspective" (London, New York and Sydney; Croon Helm, 1987), pp.295-313; "The ancient art of peer review", New Scientist, 4 January 1992, p.39.


Segment 1 Opening credits. An intertitle explains that throughout the film all excerpts are taken from William Harvey's book, 'Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Santuinis in Animalibus', trans. Robert Willis, 1847. There is a portrait of Harvey, a close shot of his hands, then the famous overlay with the hands of Henry Dale. Vesalius' book 'Do humani corporis fabrica' is shown and the 2nd century theories of Galen are briefly shown by diagrams. Time start:10:00:00:00 Time end:10:06:14:20 Length:00:06:14:20
Segment 2 Harvey's dissatisfaction with the theories of Galen and Vesalius led him to develop his own experiments. Harvey's dissections of the heart are recreated and his observations shown on intertitles. Time start:10:06:14:20 Time end:10:10:29:10 Length:00:04:15:10
Segment 3 Harvey noticed that the heartbeat varies as it begins to slow down and he discovered that the heart ventricles eject blood which has been injected by the auricles. This is shown in diagrams. Time start:10:10:29:10 Time end: 10:13:13:00 Length:00:02:44:50
Segment 4 Intertitle excerpts show Harvey's observations of an aneurysm. Footage is seen of a patient with an aneurysm in his neck. We see how Harvey's experiments led him to discover that by puncturing an artery blood is expelled as the left ventricle contracts and that the diastole of the arteries corresponds with the time of the heart's systole. Harvey examined the septum of the heart and backed up the observations of Servetus (1553) and Columbus (1559) that blood does not pass between the ventricles as previously believed up until the 16th century following the doctrines of Galen). Time start:10:13:13:00 Time end: 10:17:25:00 Length:00:04:12:00
Segment 5 This segment covers the important work that Harvey completed to demonstrate the pulmonary pathway as well as his work to discover the true function of the valves in blood vessels and the heart. The pulmonary valve is shown in action. His experiments illustrated that arterial valves do not allow reverse flow of blood. We see Harvey's experiment to show how blood flows through the two sides of the heart separately. Time start:10:17:25:00 Time end: 10:23:55:00 Length:00:06:30:00
Segment 6 Intertitles show excerpts from Harvey's book that reveal his logic as he reaches the theory of pulmonary circulation. His experiments to show the volumes of blood pumped by the heart are shown. Time start:10:23:55:00 Time end: 10:27:29:00 Length:00:03:34:00
Segment 7 Harvey's groundbreaking theory that the blood flows through the heart in two separate loops (pulmonary circulation and systemic circulation) is outlined, alongside his other important theory, that the heart pumps blood around the body and not through the sucking action of lungs and liver as was previously believed. The experiments he created to build these significant theories in the understanding of circulation are shown. Time start:10:27:29:00 Time end: 10:32:17:00 Length:00:04:48:00
Segment 8 A diagram shows Harvey's notion that blood flowed down arteries away from the heart and up veins towards the heart. His experiments to prove these theories are shown. Time start:10:32:17:00 Time end: 10:38:20:21 Length:00:06:03:21
Segment 9 The discovery of valves in veins made by Fabricius was furthered by Harvey who established valve function, as shown by an open vein with exposed valves and a transilluminated vein showing valve action. Intertitles present Harvey's text as he discovers that the valves prevent reverse flow of vlood. We see him press the veins with a finger and the arm in various positions, to show the flow of blood in the vein. Time start:10:38:20:21 Time end: 10:43:32:16 Length:00:04:13:55
Segment 10 There are more experiments in which Harvey presses veins on a subjects arm. A copy of his book 'Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus' is shown by the hands of Henry Dale. The repeat overlay of the hands of Henry Dale onto the hands in the paintng of William Harvey is seen, and a portrait of Harvey ends the film. Time start:10:43:32:16 Time end: 10:47:48:00 Length:00:04:16:44



  • English

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