Du er her: Hjem >> MedHist >> Biblioteket >> Lower.php

Richard Lower (1631-1691)


One of the most important works on pulmonary and cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, Lower’s treatise has been regarded as the next great advance after Harvey in the physiology of blood circulation. In chapter 3 Lower described his experiments which showed that venous blood is changed to arterial blood by virtue of being brought into contact with air in the lungs. Chapter 4 contains a brief history of blood transfusion and descriptions of his experiments, including an account of a transfusion from dog to dog.     
Tractatus de corde
Tractatus de corde
Richard Lower
Richard Lower


  1. silver tube for inserting into blood vessel
  2. tube inserted into recipient vein (tube attached to plate with holes for strings to tie apparatus to human recipient)
  3. tubes inserted into recipient vein and donor artery
  4. major artery of horse or ox serves as conduit between two silver tubes
  5. complete set up, from left to right:
    donor artery
    silver tube
    horse/ox artery
    silver tube
    recipient vein
  6. same apparatus for transfusion from animal to man
Richard Lower
Illustration fra Tractatus de corde

What did people think of these transfusion experiments at the time?  Here's an excerpt from the famous diary of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), a government official and member of the Royal Society:

November 14, 1666.  ...Dr. Croone told me, that, at the meeting at Gresham College to-night, which, it seems, they now have every Wednesday again, there was a pretty experiment of the blood of one dogg let out, till he died, into the body of another on one side, while all his own run out on the other side.

The first died upon the place, and the other very well, and likely to do well.  This did give occasion to many pretty wishes, as of the blood of a Quaker to be let into an Archbishop, and such like; but, as Dr. Croone says, may, if it takes, be of mighty use to man's health, for the amending of bad blood by borrowing from a better body....

November 28, 1666.  ... Mr. Carteret and I to Gresham College, where they meet now weekly again, and here they had good discourse how this late experiment of the dog, which is in perfect good health, may be improved for good uses to men, and other pretty things....

November 21, 1667.  ... they discourse of a man that is a little frantic, that hath been a kind of minister, Dr. Wilkins saying that he hath read for him in his church, that is poor and a debauched man, that the College' have hired for 20s. to have some of the blood of a sheep let into his body; and it is to be done on Saturday next.

They purpose to let in about twelve ounces; which, they compute, is what will be let in in a minute's time by a watch.  They differ in the opinion they have of the effects of it; some think it may have a good effect upon him as a frantic man by cooling his blood, others that it will not have any effect at all.  But the man is a healthy man, and by this means will be able to give an account what alteration, if any, he do find in himself, and so may be usefull.

November 30, 1667.  ...[H]ere was good company.  I choosing to sit next Dr. Wilkins, Sir George Ent, and others whom I value, there talked of several things.  Among others Dr. [John] Wilkins, talking of the universal speech, of which he hath a book coming out, did first inform me how man was certainly made for society, he being of all creatures the least armed for defence, and of all creatures in the world the young ones are not able to do anything to help themselves, nor can find the dug [their mother's breast] without being put to it, but would die if the mother did not help it; and, he says, were it not for speech man would be a very mean creature.  Much of this good discourse we had. 

But here, above all, I was pleased to see the person who had his blood taken out.  He speaks well, and did this day give the Society a relation thereof in Latin, saying that he finds himself much better since, and as a new man, but he is cracked a little in his head, though he speaks very reasonably, and very well.  He had but 20s. for his suffering it, and is to have the same again tried upon him: the first sound man that ever had it tried on him in England, and but one that we hear of in France, which was a porter hired by the virtuosos.