The Aristotelian account of "heart and veins"

Mohammadali M. Shoja, R. Shane Tubbs, Marios Loukas, Mohammad R. Ardalan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The exploration of the cardiovascular (CV) system has a history of at least five millennia. The model of the heart and veins represented by Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) is one of the earliest and accurate descriptions of the CV system. With his own specific metaphysical approach, Aristotle discussed why there might be a vascular tree composed of two vessels and also why these vessels must extend throughout the entire body. Herein, the authors present a history of the original account of the CV system based on the studies and teachings of Aristotle who made detailed observations and experimented upon animals and human corpses to explore the anatomy of the heart and vessels and thus provided the basis for modern CV medicine. The Aristotelian CV model consisted of two related but slightly dissimilar passages based on experimentation and tradition, which could be perceived as the morphology and metaphysical accounts of physiology, respectively. Restricted by his own methodology of dissecting dead animals, Aristotle was the first to describe the anatomy of the heart and blood vessels. A thorough reading of his Historia Animalium showed that he was able to morphologically delineate the right atrium in addition to three distinct heart cavities corresponding to the left atrium and right and left ventricles. The authors conclude that when interpreting Aristotelian doctrine, the methodology and terminology should be taken into account in order to prevent potential misconceptions. It is the early work of such scientists as Aristotle on which we base our current understanding of the CV system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-310
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Cardiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 25 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Aorta
  • Aristotle
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Morphology
  • Vein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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