The shape of the heart may not have changed in the 300 years since this anatomical picture was produced, but during that time, our understanding of how the heart functions and fails has changed beyond recognition. This engraving of a dissected human heart, published in 1739 by William Cowper, details the vessels, valves and heart chambers that we now know ensure blood is pumped efficiently from our lungs – delivering its precious cargo of oxygen – around the body. But it was almost 200 years after this work of art appeared that scientific research really started to take shape, sketching the blueprint for today’s heart disease research. And now, in the 21st century, armed with a rich palette of research tools, scientists are adding ever more detail to the picture of how the heart works.
Written by Caroline Cross
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.