Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community. We post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History


William J. Larsen, PhD

An American scientist, Dr. Larsen was a gifted scientist, consistently producing research at the forefront of cell, developmental, and reproductive biology. Early in his career he published a landmark paper that conclusively established mitochondrial fission as the mechanism of mitochondrial biogenesis. He went on to become the first to demonstrate the endocytosis of gap junctions. Moreover, his work on the hormonal regulation of gap junction formation and growth culminated in an authoritative review article in Tissue and Cell, “Structural Diversity of Gap Junctions (1988)”, which became a citation classic.

Throughout his 25 year teaching career, his sixty-seven peer reviewed publications—not to mention numerous invited reviews, abstracts, and book chapters—covered a wide range of research areas including adrenal cortical tumor cells, human ovarian carcinomas, preterm labor, cumulus expansion, oocyte maturation, ovulation, folliculogenesis, and in-vitro fertilization.

In addition to his many contributions to basic research, Dr. Larsen loved to teach and was much appreciated by his students. His exceptional ability was reflected in the four teaching awards he received as a professor at the University of Cincinnati.

Notably, he was the author of Human Embryology, a textbook for medical students that was the first to incorporate modern experimental research into a subject that had traditionally been taught in a strictly descriptive style. On its initial publication in 1998 it was hailed as, “a magnificent book…” by the European Medical Journal. With the release of the fourth edition in 2008, the book was renamed “Larsen’s Human Embryology” in recognition of Dr. Larsen's place as the originator of this revolutionary text. This book is today in it's 6th Edition.

His stellar scientific career would be enough for most people, but Dr. Larsen pursued his numerous and varied interests with such extraordinary passion, energy, and skill that he seemed to have more hours in a day than the ordinary person. He was fascinated with the American Southwest and studied and collected traditional arts and crafts of the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo peoples. He was a woodworker who built three harpsichords and a fortepiano for his wife, and, with his two children, over 100 pieces of gallery-quality furniture. In addition, he loved to regale his friends, colleagues, and students with jokes and stories, and to share his love for gourmet cooking.

The William J. Larsen Distinguished Lecture Series

An annual lecture series was created for the Department of Cancer & Cell Biology at the University of Cincinnati to honor Dr. Larsen's research which was at the forefront of cell developmental and reproductive biology. This series recognizes forward-thinking research scientists in the field of developmental biology and asks that they share their research and findings with students and faculty of the University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine.

Personal note: I had the opportunity to meet and attend Dr. Larsen’s embryology lectures as he and I worked in the Anatomy, Embryology, and Histology program at the University of Cincinnati Medical College. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to have Dr. Larsen sign my personal copy of his book. He is sorely missed, Dr. Miranda


1. "The William J. Larsen Distinguished Lecture Series" University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine.
3. 2022 Larsen Lecture Series brochure (download here)
4. Dr. Larsen's family personal communications

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William Harvey

This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

William Harvey (1578 - 1609) English physician, physiologist, and anatomist. He was born in Folklestone, where his  father was the mayor.

Harvey studied at the King’s College in Canterbury, after which he entered Cambridge. He later traveled through France and Italy and continued his studies in Padua, where he graduated with an MD in 1602. He later returned to Cambridge to complete his Doctoral studies.

He became the Physician-In-Charge at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.  It was at this time that he started a long process of scientific observation and logical reasoning that led him to postulate the circulation of the blood in his 1628 publication  "Excercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus"  (Anatomical Exercises on the Movement of the Heart and the Blood in Animals).

Harvey’s publication caused incredible controversy, as his proposed theory went against Galen’s theories and the idea that blood passed through "invisible pores" from the right to the left atrium of the heart. His main problem was that he could not prove the presence of capillaries, which were not observed until Antoine van Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope in the late 1600's.

William Harvey
In his book Harvey states ''It is absolutely necessary to conclude that the blood in the animal body is impelled as in a circle and is in a state of ceaseless motion: that this is the act or function which the heart performs by means of the pulse, and that it is the sole and only end of the motion and contraction of the heart”. Even today there are many that use the term “circulatory system” without realizing that the meaning “as in a circle” coined by William Harvey is present in it.

Although the first to consider the term “circulation” was Michael Servetus (1511 – 1553), his ideas were not completely evolved. Had he completed his research and studies Servetus could have precluded Harvey, but he was considered a heretic and burnt at the stake. Thankfully, Harvey was not!  

1. "William Harvey"Billimoria, A.  J Assoc Phys 60 (2012) 57
2.  “William Harvey” Foucar, HO. Can Med Assoc J 1951; 64(5): 452–453.
3. “William Harvey” McKecnie, EDJ, Robertson, C.  Resuscitation 55 (2002) 133-136
4. “William Harvey, an Aristotelian anatomist” Fara, P. Endeavour 21:2 (2007) 43–44
5. “The life and work of William Harvey” Keele, KD Endeavour 2:3 (1978) 104–107
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