History of the Vascular System

  • Andreas Bikfalvi


The vision of the vascular system has undergone many changes during history (Table 2.1). Galen, a native of Pergamon (131–201 bc), was the personal physician of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Fig. 2.1). He described the circulatory system as a one-way system in which the veins and arteries are only distinguished by the quality of the blood they conveyed [3, 4]. He based his theory on those of predecessors including Erasistratus (304–250 bc), who postulated that veins conveyed blood and arteries only air. In this scheme, veins were connected to the right heart (atrium and right ventricle) and arteries, containing only air, to the left heart (atrium and left ventricle). Galen, in contrast, showed that arteries and veins both contained blood but of different qualities. For Galen, blood had its origin in the liver, passed from the right to the left heart to reach the major blood vessels to be transported to the various tissues, and finally was transformed into flesh. A fraction of the blood was also transported to the lungs, but only to nourish it, and another portion was transported from the right to the left heart through pores located in the septum. The air had the role of cooling blood and conveyed what was called “pneuma.” In the heart, it was transformed into the vital spirit. The arteries conveyed the pneuma and veins and, in addition to blood, several humors (yellow and black bile).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Bikfalvi
    • 1
  1. 1.Angiogenesis and Tumor Microenvironment LaboratoryUniversity of Bordeaux and National Institute of Health and Medical ResearchPessacFrance

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