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sterilizing flame sweeping over all intellectual activity. The pursuit of natural knowledge had become crime, and to search with the scalpel into the secrets of the body of man was accounted sacrilege."
Servetus was the greatest man of his age. He was the irritant that caused the sixteenth century to turn uneasy in its sleep. It could not rest till he was off the earth. No nation was big enough to hold him-he came, he taught, he was banished. Like brain was the torch that burned to enlighten the world.
When he edited the geographical work of Ptolemy, his notes showed that he did not consider geography merely a matter of maps. His intellect was broad enough to grasp the connection that geography had with botany, zoology and astronomy. He was the first to recognize this important relationship of the sciences, and Tollin and other authorities consider him the Father of Comparative Geography.
In the preface, Servetus, writing as a geographer and not as a panegyrist, said: "Judea has been falsely cried up for beauty, richness, and fertility, since those, who have traveled in it have found it poor, barren and utterly devoid of pleasantness." Because of this statement he was accused of attacking the authority of Moses, who had described Judea as a land overflowing with milk and honey!
His theological views were such that it is hard to say whether he was more hated by Catholic or Protestant. He did not believe in the Trinity, was tolerant to Jews and Moors, and bothered little with Original Sin and Baptism of Infants. Therefore Martin Bucer, who is described as a very moderate man, used very moderate lan
guage and said that Servetus should only be torn to pieces and disembowelled. And Philip Melanchton, whom everyone called mild, wished in a mild sort of way that the heretical Spaniard should merely be done to death by sword or fire.
The book in which Servetus first set forth his heterodox opinions was published in 1531 and entitled De Trinitatis Erroribus. It brought him into collision with an uncanny individual who found his joy in contemplation of the fact that at least ninetenths of mankind were predestined to eternal damnation. This theologian, who was no other than John Calvin, engaged in polemics with Michael Servetus. On this On this occasion, Servetus committed a terrible blunder-he demolished his adversary. "Opponents," says Herbert Spencer, "in whom the love of truth predominates over the love of victory are rarely met with." Calvin was not one of the rare ones. He was defeated and tho he did not admit it, almost everyone else did, and he hated Servetus with a fierceness that drove all thought of mercy from his soul of stone.
up under his patronage; secret spies denounced the slightest infraction of the laws, and even torture was applied to prisoners in order to extract confessions from them."
No better epithet can be found for John Calvin than to call him Gessler the Second, for like that harsh bailiff he brought despotism on Swiss soil. That Protestant Calvin was as intolerant as the Roman Catholics there is no doubt. W. D. M'Crackan records history when in The Rise of the Swiss Republic he writes: "Calvin's Ordonnances Ecclesiastiques was adopted by the magistrates and people as the supreme law, knowing no mercy for those who disobeyed, but exercising a pitiless censorship over every act of the citizens. A system very much like that of the Catholic Inquisition grew
But enough of Calvin-for the present; we will meet him again!
As students of the History of Medicine, we are primarily interested in Michael Servetus as a physician. At the renowned University of Paris he was a pupil of Vesalius, and helped the Father of Anatomy in his dissections. His teacher Johannes Gunther has left it on record that Servetus was specially skilled in such work. In 1538, Servetus graduated with the highest honors. He became a lecturer at the university on the medical sciences and mathematics, and his eloquence and earnestness, combined with his wide and varied culture, attracted distinguished auditors, including the Archbishop of Vienne, whose confidential physician Servetus became for the last twelve years of his troubled life.
A life of peace and much glory and money would have been his, had he been able to keep his critical faculty in abeyance. But this was the one thing Michael Servetus could not do. He published a learned medical work, Syruporum Universa Ratio, in which from a therapeutic and physiological standpoint he criticized the great Galen, whose pre-eminent authority as an anatomist was after an elapse of fifteen centuries at last to be undermined by the publication of Vesalius' monumental De Humani Corporis Fabrica, while his knowledge of obstetrics was attacked by the famous midwife, Louise Bourgeois, who claimed that the unmarried master never knew the pregnant uterus of a woman. In those days people took
books seriously, and Syruporum Universa Ration aroused intense antagonism. Who to-day would get excited over a treatise on sweetened syrups?
This book of Servetus is a distinct advance in the art of prescribing, tho it is not surprising that he should have improved on a man who had been dead since the year 200, except that that marvelous man's dicta were not permitted to be disputed. For the nauseous mixtures-the mere names of
which now act as emetics-he introduced more palatable drugs; in these pages we see the first rational attempt to avoid incompatibilities, and we find also the first suggestion of what the pharmacist calls vehicles, that is, pleasant-smelling and sweet-tasting ingredients of no use in themselves, but valuable as carrying other drugs of therapeutic action.
Servetus' discoveries relative to the circulation of the blood are well known, and it is this which has kept his memory green in the medical profession.
Dr. Osler in his Harvcian Oration says, "In the sixteenth century the lesser circulation was described with admirable fulness by Servetus."
Dr. Robert Willis writes, "Had Servetus' last book been suffered to get abroad and into the hands of anatomists, we can nearly imagine that the immortality which now attaches so truly and deservedly to the great name of Harvey would have been reserved for him." Huxley, however, does not concede this, and claims that Dr. Willis' affection for his hero carries him too far. It is true that Willis considered Servetus Servetus the unrivaled Physiological Genius of the Age.
Professor Roswell Park in An Epitome of the History of Medicine, re
marks, "Michael Servetus denied the passage of the blood thru the septum, contending that it was returned from the lungs to the left side of the heart by the pulmonary veins. This was a happy thought and a great step toward the truth."
The thoro Dr. Baas is always worth quoting: "The great Spaniard, Michael Servetus, who wrote Syruporum Universa Ratio, on acount of which he was impeached before Parliament by the Faculty of Paris, showed himself as free from bigotry in the sphere of medicine as in religion. The enlightened Parliament, however, acquitted him. Servetus is immortalized by the fact that he was the first among the moderns to revive the idea of the pulmonary circulation, including the impermeability of the septum ventriculorum."
It is well to remark that Servetus' passage describing the pulmonary cir culation was first noted by W. Wotton in Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning, 1694: "Since the ancients have no right to so noble a discovery, as that of the circulation of the blood; it may be worth while to enquire, to whom of the moderns the glory of it is due; for this is also exceedingly contested. ceedingly contested. The first step that was made towards it, was the finding that the whole mass of the blood passes thru the lungs, by the pulmonary artery and vein. The first that I could ever find that had a distinct idea of this matter, was Michael Servetus, a Spanish physician."
What Servetus might have accomplished in medicine had his life not come to an untimely end, it is unprofitable to speculate, but the reader might spend some profitable hours perusing Dr. Sigmond's The Unnoticed
Theories of Servetus, tho it omits Servetus' idea of the composition of air and water.
Much do we owe to the martyrs who worked and died for Humanity. Had there been no Servetus, no Bruno, no Dolet, no Vanini, there could have been no Darwin, no Spencer, no Huxley, no Haeckel.
A stranger rode into Louyset, and the next day wandered into Geneva, where he earnestly asked for a boat to take him toward Zurich on his way to Naples. He had escaped from prison, and like Baumgarten in Schiller's Wilhelm Tell, might have exclaimed:
Then must I fall into the tyrant's hands,
more incensed than ever, and the doom of Servetus was sealed.
The trial lasted from August till October, and several passages deemed heretical were read from his latest book, which had recently been published-Christianismi Restitutio. Calvin of course was the chief prosecutor. There was no escape from the implacable Genevan. Servetus had defeated him once-it was now Calvin's turn. He had the infidel on the hip and he smote him hard. Yet even without Calvin, Servetus' life was in danger, burnt in effigy at Vienne, and in July for during the month of June he was the Roman Catholic Inquisition condemned him to death. But as Calvin was anxious for the honor of burning him, he would not relinquish Servetus, and on October 26, 1553, his tribunal read the following judgment:
"Against Michael Servetus of Villeneuve, in the kingdom of Arragon, in Spain: Because in his book he calls the Trinity a devil, and a monster with three heads; because contrary to what Scripture says, he calls Jesus Christ a Son of David; and says that the baptism of little infants is only an invention of witchcraft; and because of many other points and articles and execrable blasphemies with which the said book is all stuffed, hugely scanda.lous and against the honor and majesty of God, of the Son of God, and of the Holy Spirit; and because Servetus, full of malice, has entitled his book thus directed against God and the holy evangelical doctrine, Restoration of Christianity, and that for the better seducing and deceiving the poor ignorants, and for more easily infecting with his unhappy and wretched poison the readers of his said book, under the shade of sound doctrine: therefore
Unhappier was his fate, for instead of the helping hand of Tell to row him thru the storm in safety, the despotic voice of Calvin was heard commanding his immediate arrest. Servetus was again imprisoned, and like a tireless machine the Christian Hercules (as Beza called Calvin) labored for a death-sentence. Nor could he forego the gratification of seeing the captive in his cell. This visitation recalls the visit of James II. to Monmouth of which Macaulay writes, "To see him and not to spare him was an outrage on humanity and decency." Calvin resembled the cruelest of England's kings in more ways than one, but Servetus was no Monmouth; he did not weep or ask for pardon. Servetus looked into the eyes of the bigot, and remained silent. His passion for argument had deserted him-he had cast enough invaluable pearls before uncomprehending swine. Calvin was
"For these and other just reasons us hereto moving, desiring to purge the Church of God of such infection, and to cut off from it a corrupt member-having well consulted with our fellow-citizens, and having invoked the name of God to guide us to right judgment, sitting on the tribunal in the place of our ancestors-having God, and His Holy Scriptures before our eyes, saying in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, by this our definite sentence which we give here in writing, we condemn thee, M. Servetus, to be bound, and led to the place of Champel, there to be fastened to a stake, and burned alive, with thy book, as well written. by thy hand as printed, even till thy body be reduced to ashes, and thus wilt thou finish thy days, to furnish an example to others who might wish to commit the like."
As said before, parts of his latest book were read as evidence against him, but there was a certain passage which the prosecution overlooked, so we will quote it here:
"The vital spirit," wrote Servetus, "is generated by the mixture in the lungs of the inspired air with the subtly elaborated blood, which the right ventricle sends to the left. The communication between the ventricles, however, is not made thru the midwall of the heart, but in a wonderful way the fluid blood is conducted by a long detour from the right ventricle thru the lungs, where it is acted on by the lungs and becomes red in color, passes from the arteria venosa into the vena arteriosa, whence it is finally drawn by the diastole into the left ventricle."
Reader, this remarkable passage was the first complete account of the lesser circulation! There stood Michael
Servetus, the anticipator of Harvey, the discoverer of the pulmonic circulation of the blood, condemned to death for writing the book that contained the most momentous physiological discovery of the time. So effectually was the edition destroyed, that Harvey knew not his true percursor. It is one of the rarest books in the world, but in the Museum of the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris, is a copy of the original edition, with seemingly fire-charred edges, said to have been saved from the very flames that destroyed its author. If you love Servetus, turn its pages with a reverent hand.
It was the melancholy month-October. Pensive Autumn faintly sighed, the trees had shed their glory, and the fields were filled with pain.
Under an ancient arcade the processions passed. Beneath the gate of the castle they marched. The Bourg-deFour they crossed, and ascended the street of Saint Anthony. Southward they turned, and left the walls of the town. The Lord-Lieutenant rode a mighty horse, and by his side galloped a herald. Behind them came the archers, and in the midst of all walked a proud and taciturn physician whose prescriptions had failed to purge the age of fanaticism. A crowd swelled the rear-poor and unlearned-but not one in all that throng envied him who walked in silence.
The sick leaves moaned, the dead leaves fell. Destruction was in the air.
A little hill lay before the procession. Up this incline rode the LordLieutenant, followed by the others. The summit was gained, and then the eye gazed on the scene which has en