Internet errors come back to bite us

Mistakes made on the internet do not go away. I discovered this recently when I was doing a search on Google for a particular quote concerning two giants in the field of medicine, Galen and Harvey.

Along with many reliable sources of information, I saw, with some embarrassment, a mangled version of the quote that I had written some months ago.

I had added a comment to a post on Gray Monks weblog and had completely messed up the original quote without realizing it. When I returned to the site recently, I found that I could not add a corrective comment on an archived post.

As I do not want my senior moment to be preserved for all time, with no correction to show that sanity has finally returned, I am rectifying the error here and now, in the firm conviction that the omnipresent Google bots will pick it up and preserve it along with the original. UPDATE: The correction was picked up within 3 days. It will now accompany the original mistake into perpetuity.

My statement should have said, “Most scientists would rather err with Galen, than to admit that Harvey was valid.” –David St Lawrence

This was in support of the idea that medicine and science tend to support established authorities and ignore evidence that contradicts them.

Here is the backstory for those who are interested:

Both Harvey and Galen formulated theories of the movement of blood in the body along with their guesses on the origin and purpose of the blood. Galen’s theory was conceived roughly 1350 years previous to that of Harvey.

Claudius Galen (129 – 200), was a second century physician as well as a philosopher and his teachings on the practice of medicine was the standard for more than a thousand years.

William Harvey (1578 – 1657) was the first to correctly describe the circulatory system of blood being pumped around the body by the heart. He announced his discovery of the circulatory system in 1616, but it wasn’t until 1628 that he published his work (An Anatomical Exercise on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals). Harvey’s ideas were not accepted during his lifetime and his work was attacked.

And as Paul Harvey would say, “Here is the rest of the story.”

There was an earlier physician who challenged the correctness of Galen’s assumptions. Andreas Vesalius (1514-64) was a Belgian anatomist and physician whose dissections of the human body and descriptions of his finding helped to correct misconceptions prevailing since ancient times. He was roundly attacked for his views.

Bartholomew Eustachus of Rome declared he would rather err with Galen than accept the truth from the innovator, Vesalius.

So there you have it, another chapter in the struggle to bring truth to those who are dead set against it. See how much easier we have it now that blogs exist?

All we have to do is to make sure we get it right when we write a post or comment.

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