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Ceaseless motion: William Harvey's experiments in circulation

When and where

19 January 2018 to 26 July 2018
Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, Regent's Park, London NW1 4LE

Past event

Ceaseless motion: William Harvey's experiments in circulation

Opening January 2018, a new exhibition coinciding with the Royal College of Physicians' (RCP's) 500th anniversary exploring the life, work and legacy of revolutionary anatomist William Harvey – the physician who revealed the secrets of circulation.

The 'Ceaseless motion: William Harvey's experiments in circulation' exhibition runs from 19 January to 26 July 2018, and is open Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm.

William Harvey (1578–1657) was an anatomist and physician with an insatiable curiosity about the inner workings of all living creatures. Harvey lived through an extraordinary age of scientific revolution, to which he would contribute with his own discovery on the heart and blood circulation.

Within his London home, Harvey conducted countless experiments and observed the beating hearts of many animals, including dogs, eels, crows and even wasps. As an anatomist, he was able to dissect the bodies of hanged men, in the anatomy theatre at the Royal College of Physicians.

It is absolutely necessary to conclude that the blood is in a state of ceaseless motion; that this is the function which the heart performs by means of its pulse; and that this is the sole and only end of the motion and contraction of the heart.

William Harvey, 1628
Oil on canvas portrait of William Harvey by unknown artist, c.1650. (detail)

In 1628, after 10 years of painstaking solitary research, Harvey at last published his discovery in a book, known as De motu cordis. His idea, that blood is pumped around the body by the heart in a state of ceaseless motion, proved highly controversial to some, challenging 1,500 years of established scientific and medical belief.

Harvey encouraged his fellow physicians ‘to search and study out the secrets of nature by way of experiment’. His legacy of curiosity, research and discovery has had a lasting impact on the practice and science of medicine. This exhibition places William Harvey at the heart of the RCP as it celebrates its 500th anniversary.

William Harvey's demonstration rod. Whalebone and silver c.1616

Visiting information

The exhibition will be open from 19 January to 26 July 2018, Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm.

Opening times may vary – check the RCP visiting page for closure days before your visit.

Museum lates

New for 2018, the RCP museum including the 'Ceaseless motion' exhibition will be open until 8pm on the first Thursday of the month. No booking required, free museum and exhibition entry.

Forthcoming RCP museum lates
  • Thursday 5 July, 5-8pm

Exhibition team and contributors

Exhibition team: Kristin Hussey, Matthew Wood, Pamela Forde, Natalie Craven and Katie Birkwood.

Exhibition contributors: National Portrait Gallery, Royal College of Surgeons, Science Museum, British Cardiovascular Society, Worcester College, University of Oxford and Wellcome Collection.

Special thanks to: Chocolate Films, Spectrum Drama, Professor Ludmilla Jordanova and Professor Andrew Cunningham.

For all media enquiries please contact Discover Medical London: discovermedicallondon@gmail.com


Thursday 18 January 2018: exhibition opening and lecture


Join us for the opening of the exhibition with a lecture by Professor Andrew Cunningham.

Booking via Eventbrite


Thursday 22 February 2018: Art & Anatomy


Join us for a unique life drawing class inspired by William Harvey's fascination of anatomy.

Booking is essential, places are limited. Booking opens January 2018, email history@rcplondon.ac.uk to register your interest.

Wednesday 13 June 2018: 'Blood in the streets: a history of anatomy, medicine and gore' walking study tour

12 - 5.30pm

Led by Discover Medical London

Wednesday 11 July 2018: 'Blood in the streets: a history of anatomy, medicine and gore'

12 - 5.30pm

Led by Discover Medical London.