I’m thinking that every Wednesday, I’ll let you in on some of the cool history that I uncovered while writing the book. Sound good?
Blood Workis a nonfiction murder mystery set in the Scientific Revolution. It centers around the very first blood transfusions, which took place in the late 1660s, a full 150 years before the discovery of anesthesia and antisepsis and nearly 250 years before the discovery of blood types. To make things even more interesting: these first transfusions used animals as donors.
The question I’ve been getting a lot is how I stumbled on the topic. Actually, like any self-respecting college professor, I came across the very odd story of these first blood transfusions–and the related murder trial–while I was preparing a class lecture on William Harvey’s discovery of blood circulation in 1628.
For millennia, it was believed that blood was produced through the digestive system. Food was “concocted” and “cooked” in the stomach and then “distilled” in the liver where it was made into blood. From there, the blood moved to the heart. The heart was viewed as something of a furnace, where blood was burned to produce body heat and energy. The understanding that the lungs helped oxygenate the blood did not arrive until the 1670s. Instead, doctors and natural philosophers (as scientists were called) believed that breathing served as a type of bellows to stoke the heart’s fires and as a way to blow off the “smoke” that was produced.
Harvey’s discovery of blood circulation was a radical–and controversial–departure from traditional thought. I’ll talk more about that in later posts. But it set off a flurry of experiments, including and especially the first blood transfusion experiments.
I’m really eager to hear about what questions you have about early transfusion and early medicine more generally.
And of course, I’d LOVE it if you could help me get the word out on the book. Please do tweet this post or put it on your Facebook page. Stop by your local bookstore and ask for “help” finding the book on the shelf, even if you already see it somewhere. My editor tells me first few weeks of a book release are critical to the success of a book.
And, by the way, if you pick up a copy (please do!)…Email Me your mailing address. I’d love to pop a signed bookplate in the mail to you as a way of saying THANKS!