The two plaster busts of Harvey, found in the Great Hall and the Sibbald Library, both appear to depict Harvey in his academic robes, worn over a coat or waistcoat. The pieces are identical as both are copies or casts taken of Peter Scheemakers original bust which was commissioned by his patron Richard Mead, who gifted the original to the Royal College of Physicians in 1739. Scheemaker was particularly famous for his memorial to Shakespeare in poets’ corner in Westminster Abbey. The casts of his bust of Harvey demonstrate his attention to detail. Moreover, at least in this piece, Scheemaker appears to have preferred to depict his subject in a realistic, rather than an idealised manner.

Alongside these busts the College also possesses a terracotta statuette of Harvey and Harvey also appears in the roundel portraits in the Great Hall.

William Harvey, plaster bust taken from the original by Scheemaker, in the hall.

William Harvey (1578 - 1657)

William Harvey is one of the most significant figures in British medical history.  He was educated at Cambridge and Padua, where he obtained his MD in 1602. He began practicing in London in 1603 and became closely involved with the College of Physicians (Eng.) which elected him to the Lumleian lectureship in 1615. Harvey’s most famous work is Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus (1628) which details his discovery of the circulation of the blood and disproved Galenic theories about the heart and circulation of the blood. Galenic medical beliefs, which were still supported by many of Harvey’s contemporaries, purported that arterial blood was absorbed by the body’s internal tissues and that venous blood was created from ingested food in the liver before proceeding on to the heart where it was converted to arterial blood. In contrast, Harvey’s work, which was based on his anatomical experiments, dissections and vivisections, argued that the same blood circulated throughout the body. Also significant was Harvey’s contribution to embryology, De generatione animalium (1651), which proposed an epigenetic path of foetal development. Beyond experimental anatomy Harvey was also physician-extraordinary to both James I and Charles I.