The Heart

Front Cover
James Peto
Yale University Press, 2007 M01 1 - 254 pages

Published upon the opening of the Wellcome Collection, the Wellcome Trust's new public venue in London, this book examines the history of our understanding of the human heart. Encompassing material from Henry Wellcome's own collections in the Wellcome Library and images and artifacts from private and public archives across the world, the book provides a richly illustrated account of changes in our perception of what the heart does and what it means.

The book first explores the symbolic significance of the heart in ancient Egypt, China, India, and Greece; its role in Aztec ceremony; and its place in the medieval world. It then considers the centrality of the heart in Christianity and other religions and the literary and artistic views of the heart as the seat of the soul and emotions.

The growth of anatomical knowledge of the heart and its treatment through developing technology is fundamental to the volume. Fifteenth-century drawings by Leonardo da Vinci reveal his extraordinary early insight into the heart's mechanisms, and twentieth-century medical breakthroughs prompt questions about ownership of the heart and the source of life itself. With testimony from surgeons and patients, the book highlights developments in cardiac surgery and considers future alternatives involving gene therapy, stem cell options, and micro-surgery.


Louisa Young: The Human Heart

Francis Wells: The Renaissance Heart

Emily Jo Sargent: The Sacred Heart

Fay Bound Alberti: The Emotional Heart

Ayesha Nathoo: The Transplanted Heart

Melissa Larner: The Healing Heart

Ted Bianco: The Animal Heart

Michael Bracewell: The Broken Heart

Jon Turney: The Future Heart



Heart scarab with human face early New Kingdom Egyptian green basalt length
Anonymous nun the heart as a house fifteenth century German pen drawing
Understanding the Pump
The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci
Christian Symbolism
Surgery in the 1960s
Same Song Different Rhythm
The Story of Heartbreak Hotel
Appetite Versus Technology in the

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About the author (2007)

James Peto has worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and at the Design Museum, Science Museum, and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. He is curator of the Wellcome Collection's 2007 exhibition, The Heart.

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