Thomas Wright has written a new biography of William Harvey (1578-1657) who first described the circulation of the blood. I haven’t read it, but I have read a review of the book in the September 16, 2013 Weekly Standard – Living in Vein. The are a number of ways to review a book. The best is to describe its purpose and then to critically analyze its strengths and weaknesses. Another is give a summary of the book and then mention at the end whether you liked it. This second method is useful when the reviewer finds himself with a book on a subject about which he does not have expert knowledge. Joshua Gelernter, the author of the above review, is described as a writer in Connecticut. As far as I can tell he has no training or experience in medicine.
This lack likely explains the astonishing statement he makes at the end of his review: And for all his hard work, courage, and brilliance, which shaped the modern world and gave birth to the practice of medicine that has prolonged millions of lives, William Harvey is remembered today by just about no one. He is not revered, like Einstein and Darwin; he is never mentioned in high school curricula… But William Harvey: A Life in Circulation is an important step towards setting this injustice straight.
Of course he does not have the popular notoriety of Darwin or Einstein (virtually no scientist does), but to any student of medicine, no matter at what level, William Harvey not just remembered, he is one of the giants of the profession similar in stature to, say, that of Donizetti in opera – he’s probably also not in the high school curriculum. De Motu Cordis (On the Motion of the Heart) is a legendary work in the history of medical science.
This work is one of the greatest and most famous contributions to physiology, for it introduces into biology the doctrine of the complete circulation of the blood. (From the article linked just above)
Anyone with any connection to medicine or physiology knows of it and its author. Harvey was the leading medical scientist of the 17th century and the founder of modern physiology. To say he is forgotten and not revered is to admit that you don’t know much about biology and that you are far from the ideal candidate to review a biography about him. I can only guess about this, but the above statement suggests that Mr Gelernter had not heard of Harvey prior to reading Wright’s biography of the great Englishman and thus assumed that no one else had. Harvey’s reputation is not in any need of support or defense. Wright’s biography may be a fine addition to scholarship about Harvey, but no matter how good it is, his stature will be unaffected by it. That he is not included in high school curriculum says more about secondary education than it does about Harvey.