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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/101

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SKETCH OF MICHAEL SERVETUS.

SKETCH OF MICHAEL SERVETUS.[1]
By M. MAURIS.

THE publication of an elaborate life of Servetus in English at the present time will be welcome to many readers, who at present know little more of the man than that he was burned at the stake at Geneva, at the instigation of John Calvin, three hundred and twenty-five years ago. The progress of the world from polytheism to monotheism has had many tragic passages, but perhaps the most unique was this roasting alive of the Unitarian Servetus with green wood by a leader of the Protestant Reformation.

Dr. Willis, the author of the work, had edited an edition of the writings of William Harvey, accompanied by a biography of the great demonstrator of the circulation of the blood. His researches into this interesting subject led him to investigate the claims of Servetus to a share in this grand discovery, when it was established that he was "the first who proclaimed the true way in. which the blood from the right reaches the left chambers of the heart by passing through the lungs, and even hinted at its further course by the arteries to the body at large." His study of the subject deepened the interest of Dr. Willis in the character of Servetus, not only as a physiologist, but as a philosopher and scholar; as a practical physician, freed from the fetters of mediaeval routine; an eminent geographer and astronomer, and a liberal Biblical critic in days when criticism, as we understand the term, was unimagined.

Servetus was a Spaniard, born at Villanueva, in Aragon, in 1509, of an old family in independent circumstances. He entered the University of Saragossa when about fourteen years old, and there perfected himself in the study of the classics, in the Greek and Hebrew tongues, as well as in the ethics of Aristotle, scholastic philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and geography. From Saragossa he appears to have passed to the law-school of Toulouse, but theology had more attractions for him than law. A rational exposition of God's revelation of himself in Nature seems to have been a craving in the ardent and religious temperament of the thoughtful young Spaniard. While at Toulouse he read the Bible, the writings of Luther, the rational theology of Rymund de Sabunde, and the works of Erasmus. The effect of these studies was that, at eighteen years of age, he had already framed a theological system of his own, far in advance of the ideas of his time. Leaving Toulouse, Servetus entered the service of Juan Quintana, a Franciscan friar, and confessor of the Emperor Charles V., whose coronation he attended in Aix-la-Chapelle, and also

  1. "Servetus and Calvin: A Study of an Important Epoch in the Early History of the Reformation." By R. Willis, M.D. 541 pages. London: Henry S. King & Co.