Wall Street Journal: Blue Bell Author Traces the Biology of the Heart, from Keeper of the Soul to Simple Pump


Vincent M. Figueredo, Blue Bell cardiologist, has written a book that chronicles the discovery of the heart’s anatomical role. The Wall Street Journal excerpted it.

Figueredo’s cardiological history dates to 1641 and a shocking medical case in England. Patient Hugh Montgomery had sustained a childhood injury that left his beating heart visible through a gap in his chest.

Montgomery became something of a celebrity, allowing strangers to view his cardiac activity firsthand. He even showed it to King Charles I, who painlessly touched the organ as it dutifully pumped.

That visible evidence started to shift the heart’s established view, which was then theorized to be much closer to the activities now attributed to the brain: emotions, passion, intelligence.

The heart’s true function — moving blood for oxygenation purposes — started to emerge.

Harvey ran several experiments to test the heart-as-pump theory. He worked with tourniquets and live subjects (inmates and animals) to confirm that the organ was, indeed, little more than an array of muscles and valves designed to move blood.

“At the diastole it was drawn in and retracted; and in the systole, it came forth and was thrust out,” read his notes from the time.

More on the evolution of cardiological education from Blue Bell’s Vincent M. Figueredo is at The Wall Street Journal.


A history of cardiology presented at University College London.

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