Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Circulation of Blood in Renaissance Medicine

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_394-1


From the antiquity to the Renaissance, the heart was figured as a container, rather than a pump of blood. Galen’s system hypothesized that blood was produced in the liver and that some amount of it passed from the right to the left ventricle through invisible pores. Since the rediscovery of human anatomy in the Renaissance, all Galenic dogma around cardiovascular anatomy and physiology were gradually discredited. Andreas Vesalius denied the patency of interventricular septum. Matteo Realdo Colombo proved that blood passed from the right to the left ventricle through the lungs (pulmonary circulation). William Harvey, basing on Hieronymus Fabricius’ finding of valves in the veins and on Aristotle’s concept of circular movement, discovered blood systemic circulation and demonstrated that heart was a pump, rather than a simple container, or vase, of blood. Harvey’s concept of the heart as a pump and his quantitative and experimental method influenced seventeenth- and eighteenth-century medicine, which was characterized by a mathematical and mechanical approach to living creatures.


Hieronymus Fabricius Vesalius Galenic Dogma Cardiovascular Anatomy Blood Circulation System 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular SciencesUniversity of Padua Medical SchoolPaduaItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Hiro Hirai
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the History of Philosophy and ScienceRadboud Universiteit NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands