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Balancing Blood, Balancing Books: Medicine, Commerce, and the Royal Court in Seventeenth-Century England

Neuss, Michael James

This dissertation argues that the Williams Harvey's novel conceptualization of the circulation developed from a set of concerns and sensitivities that Harvey shared with merchants and courtiers, and that it emerged at the courts of King James and King Charles, alongside a new conceptualizations of commercial circulation. As a brother to merchants and a physician to kings during the commercial crises of the 1620s, Harvey was exposed to ways of thinking about circulation that he used to make sense of the disparate observations he made about the motion of the heart and blood. Harvey's famous quantitative argument, the thought experiment at the center of his conceptualization of the blood, was an exercise in accounting. Through a process of "reckoning," and "by laying of account," Harvey balanced blood like a merchant balances books, conceptualizing arterial and venous blood as fungible. Harvey showed that there was a recirculation of blood through the heart. Over time, these aspects of Harvey's circulation became easier to overlook; the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed the most tangible artifacts of Harvey's mercantile sociability, such as his fine Persian rugs or the collection of marvels contained in the library and museum that Harvey established at the College of Physicians of London. By situating Harvey among courtiers and royal patrons who were concerned with the circulation of cloths, dyestuffs, coin, and bullion, this dissertation aims to add to the burgeoning literature on the scientific revolution that posits a multitude of different scientific practitioners with diverse philosophical commitments and varied connections to other facets of early modern life, while stressing key conceptual changes in Harvey's thought.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
History
Thesis Advisors
Jones, Matthew L.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 16, 2013