In August, 1615, William Harvey was appointed to the office of Lumleian lecturer of the College of Physicians of England. His first course of anatomic lectures was delivered just three hundred years ago—Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, April 16, 17 and 18, 1616. The following Tuesday, April 23, Shakespeare died at Stratford-on-Avon. Thus it happens that both science and literature have occasion to observe appropriate tercentenary celebrations during the present year.
Of the Shakespeare anniversary much has been written of late, and many appropriate observances have been planned. It may be asked wherein justification exists for the selection of this date for special reference to the life of Harvey. It is true that his classic treatise on the circulation of the blood was not published until sixteen years later, in 1628. But it is also more than probable that in the Lumleian lectures of 1616 Harvey began to teach that doctrine which has immortalized his name. In this narrower sense, then, we are celebrating the earlier announcement of a great discovery. When a few years later Harvey issued his book “De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis” at Frankfort-on-the-Main, he gave his reasons for believing that the blood circulates, and explained the use of the heart in language so simple, so clear, so exact, that now, to quote one of his biographers—Parkyn—nearly three hundred years afterward, the most accomplished physiologist can hardly improve on it. This assuredly is a fact almost unique in the history of science.
A Harvey Anniversary: 1616-1916. JAMA. 2016;315(14):1524. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.17081