Novel by Thomas Wright wins the 2012 Wellcome Trust Book Prize

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The Wellcome Trust has announced the winner of its notable Book Prize award.

The successful author, Thomas Wright, was award the amount of £25,000 for his book, Circulation, an outstanding biographical novel about English physician, William Harvey.

The Wellcome Trust Book Prize was created to celebrate literature which embraces the twin themes of medicine and health. The aim of the unique award is to encourage interest, enthusiastic discourse and popularize awareness of these eye-opening areas for people not usually engaged with the exciting, discovery laden and remarkably dramatic world of medical science.

The narrative of Circulation traces Harvey’s determined, pioneering and powerfully driven ambition to deconstruct the human blood circulatory system.

The story, historically set in Renaissance London, is delivered entertainingly in a vivid and visceral way. The tale highlights the serious controversy raised by Harvey’s work, which radically challenged contemporary and long established anatomical and medical beliefs.

Chair of the judging panel, Mark Lawson enthused about the winning selection:

“A portrait of early medical experimentation but with strong resonances for contemporary research, it also brings innovation to the often-conventional genre of biography: dividing the chronology of William Harvey’s life with thematic and historical essays.

“The result is a book that combines scholarly science with such narrative excitement that it will be a great surprise if we do not eventually see ‘Circulation: The Movie’. The book itself deserves the widest possible circulation.”

The undoubted graphic and sharp pictorial possibilities in dramatizing Harvey’s notorious, publicly performed dissections are certainly good fodder for any director seeking a potent source for cinematic reverie, with a hoard of contributing characters to boot. To casually name drop but a historical few, the action incorporates Francis Bacon, John Donne and King Charles the First who was Harvey’s patron and actual witness of many of his gruesome, investigative experiments.

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, described the book as “a beautifully written portrait of William Harvey” which “captures a moment in the history of modern medicine that excites, entertains and educates.”

The judging panel comprised authors, research scientists, neurosurgeons, media editors and poets. The shortlisted books were:

• John Coates, The Hour Between Dog and Wolf

• Nick Coleman, The Train in the Night

• Mohammed Hanif, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti

• Peter James, Perfect People

• Rose Tremain, Merivel: A Man of his Time

• Thomas Wright, ‘Circulation’

Thomas Wright is a freelance writer and researcher who lives in London and Genoa. He was educated at Saint Thomas More RC School, Bedford, and Magdalen College, Oxford. Circulation is his third book.

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