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William Harvey (1578–1657)

Photo credit: Royal College of Physicians, London

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William Harvey (1578–1657) revolutionised the science of medicine with his discovery of the circulation of blood and his approach to experimentation. Harvey’s discovery was rejected by many during his lifetime, but a consensus on circulation was reached after his death, marking the biggest change in medical theory in a thousand years. Harvey was a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and donated his own library to the College in 1656 and endowed it with money from his estates in Kent, creating the post of Harveian Librarian to oversee the collections. Every year during the RCP’s annual Harveian Oration, a toast is raised to this portrait in recognition of Harvey’s immense contribution to medicine and the RCP. The artist Peter Lely was a Dutch painter who was appointed as a Royal Court portraitist by Charles II.

Royal College of Physicians, London



William Harvey (1578–1657)




oil on canvas


H 76.2 x W 63.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift from Lady Davies, 1967

Work type



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Normally on display at

Royal College of Physicians, London

11 St Andrew's Place, Regent's Park, London, Greater London NW1 4LE England

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