September 22, 2021

Bill Schutt

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome BILL SCHUTT—acclaimed author and research associate at the American Museum of Natural History—for a discussion of his latest book, Pump: A Natural History of the Heart. He will be joined in conversation by collaborator and celebrated illustrator PATRICIA J. WYNNE.


Millennia ago, when we first began puzzling over the mysteries of the human body, one organ stood out as vital. The heart was warm, it was central, and it moved as it pumped blood. The ancient Egyptians treated it with reverence, mummifying it separately from the body so that the soul inside it could be weighed. Aristotle believed that it was the seat of consciousness. Over the centuries, science has dispelled the myths, but our fascination with the heart has endured.   

From the origins of circulation, still evident in some microorganisms today, to the enormous hearts of blue whales, we journey with Bill to beaches where horseshoe crabs are being harvested for their life-saving blood, and under the sea to learn about the world’s most natural antifreeze, flowing through the veins of icefish. And we follow him through human history, too, as scientists hypothesize wrongly and rightly about what is arguably our most important organ, ultimately developing the technologies that have helped us study the heart—and now, in the most cutting-edge labs, the tools that will help us regenerate it.

Deeply researched and engagingly told, Pump is a fascinating natural history sure to be loved by readers of Mary Roach and Bill Bryson.

About Author(s)

Bill Schutt is a vertebrate zoologist and author of five nonfiction and fiction books, including the New York Times Editor’s Choice, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. Recently retired from his post as professor of biology at LIU Post, he is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, where he has studied bats all over the world. His research has been featured in Natural History magazine as well as in the New York Times, Newsday, the Economist, and Discover.

Patricia J. Wynne’s editorial art has appeared in publications such as the New York TimesFood and WineCricket and Scientific American. Additionally, Wynne’s illustrations and expertise are consistently sought by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History, most recently for The Brain and Dark Banquet: The Curious Lives of Blood Feeding Creatures. Her books have won many awards, including honors from Parenting Magazine, the John Burroughs Association, National Science Teachers Association and in 2008 Wynne received a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor. Wynne’s research has taken her all over the world, from an artificial heart lab to the heart of a tropical rainforest. Wynne continues to work as a freelance artist, telling stories about the things she loves best: the natural world, science, discovery, and the faraway realms of the mind’s eye.