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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 143. Servetus as a Physician, Scientist, and Astrologer.


Being supplied with the necessary funds, Servetus returned to Paris in 1536 and took his degrees as magister and doctor of medicine. He acquired great fame as a physician.

The medical world was then divided into two schools,—the Galenists, who followed Hippocrates and Galen, and the Averrhoists, who followed Averrhoes and Avicenna. Servetus was a pupil of Champier, and joined the Greek school, but had an open eye to the truth of the Arabians.

He published in 1537 a learned treatise on Syrups and their use in medicine. It is his most popular book, and passed through four editions in ten years.10601060    Syroporum universa Ratio ad Galeni censuram diligenter exposita, etc. Parisiis ex officina Simonis Colinaei, 1537; Venetiis, 1545 and 1548, and Lugduni, 1546 and 1547. Comp. Willis, ch. XI. 111 sq.; v. d. Linde, pp. 53 sqq. (with the full title on p. 54).

He discovered the pulmonary circulation of the blood or the passage of the blood from the right to the left chamber of the heart through the lungs by the pulmonary artery and vein. He published it, not separately, but in his work on the Restitution of Christianity, as a part of his theological speculation on the vital spirits. The discovery was burnt and buried with this book; but nearly a hundred years later William Harvey (1578–1658), independently, made the same discovery.10611061    Restit. Christ., Bk. V. p. 170. See G. Sismond, The unnoticed Theories of Servetus, London, 1826; Flourens, Histoire de la decouverte de la circulation du sang, Paris, 1854; sec. ed. 1857; Tollin, Die Entdeckung des Blutkreislaufs durch Michael Servet, Jena, 1876 (comp. his Kritische Bemerkungen über Harvey und seine Vorgaenger, 1882); Willis (who is a doctor of medicine), pp. 210 sqq.; and v. d. Linde, pp. 123 sqq. Harvey probably never saw the Restitutio, and is therefore as much entitled to the merit of an original discovery as Columbus, who was ignorant of the expeditions of the Norsemen to North America.

Servetus lectured in the University on geography and astrology, and gained much applause, but excited also the envy and ill-will of his colleagues, whom he treated with overbearing pride and contempt.

He wrote an "Apologetic Dissertation on Astrology,"10621062    Reprinted in Berlin, 1880. and severely attacked the physicians as ignoramuses, who in return denounced him as an impostor and wind-bag. The senate of the University sided with the physicians, and the Parliament of Paris forbade him to lecture on astrology and to prophesy from the stars (1538).10631063    V. d. Linde, pp. 65 sqq. In this respect Servetus was behind Calvin, who boldly attacked the superstition of astrology (see above, § 135, pp. 676 sqq.); but, strange to say, even in our days the "Vox Stellarum" is regularly printed in England and finds thousands of readers. Willis, p. 125.

He left Paris for Charlieu, a small town near Lyons, and practised medicine for two or three years.

At his thirtieth year he thought that, after the example of Christ, he should be rebaptized, since his former baptism was of no value. He denied the analogy of circumcision. The Jews, he says, circumcised infants, but baptized only adults. This was the practice of John the Baptist; and Christ, who had been circumcised on the eighth day, was baptized when he entered the public ministry. The promise is given to believers only, and infants have no faith. Baptism is the beginning of regeneration, and the entrance into the kingdom of heaven. He wrote two letters to Calvin on the subject, and exhorted him to follow his example.10641064    Ep. XV. and XVI. ad Calv., in Christianismi Restitutio, pp. 613-619.

His arrogance made him so unpopular that he had to leave Charlieu.10651065    Bolsec (p. 18 sq.) reports that Servetus was "constrainct de se partir de Charlieu pour les folies lesquelles il faisoit."



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