Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Screamin' Memies

Arrrgh! Memed again!

Mostly I try to ignore the "duty" of passing them along but I do gratefully thank those who tag me with such nice ones as the totally unwarranted "E for Excellence" award sent my way by Ian at Further Thoughts.

But now John Wilkins has tagged me and a blood oath taken in the trenches at talk.origins compels me to obey the call and see if I can join with him to produce memelettes. But this metaphor is getting creepy, isn't it?

Bastard that he is, he has tagged me with a history meme. Don't get me wrong ... history, particularly the history and philosophy of science, is some of my favorite reading. But the thing is that the subject is supposed to be 7 random/weird things about your favorite historical figure. I don't have one. I have many. Abraham Lincoln, the Armada, Cope and Marsh, John Adams, Winston Churchill, the Pilgrims, Alexander Hamilton, Asa Gray, James Madison, Charles Darwin ... I am a history slut.

I dip into these figures for a season, love them for a while, then I go a-rovin'.

So after many starts and stops, I have decided instead to go with a favorite type: the persistent public annoyance. A person who seems capable of eliciting hatred in his or her fellow humans without effort, frequently for the extremely irritating habit of being right, despite the clearly indicated popular opinion.

1) Miguel Servet y Reves, better known as Michael Servetus, was born in Northern Spain to noble parents sometime between 1509 and 1511.

2) Little is known about his childhood but his first notable act as an adult was to publish a book taking the side of Arianism, just in time for both the Reformation and the Counterreformation to decide that Arians were heretics. Needless to say, Servetus became a travelin' man.

3) In stops in Lyon and Paris Servetus learned medicine, eventually studying anatomy under the great Vesalius. Servetus, in service of his religious mysticism, developed an account of the pulmonary blood flow that sounds strange in our ears but was far closer to the truth than the ideas of his contemporaries. He starts by asserting that the spirit of God rested in three vital elements of the body: the blood, situated in the liver and veins, the heart and arteries and the spiritus animalis, a ray of light seated in the brain and nerves. The spirit is formed from the highest elements of the blood as it mixes with inhaled air. But then he gives the part we now remember. The union of the blood and air takes place in the lungs. The blood is conveyed through the right chamber of the heart to the lungs, where it is purged of "soot" through exhalation and mingled with inhaled air. Then it is returned back to the left chamber of the heart. He denied, as all had believed before, that the blood somehow passes directly through the wall between the right and left heart chambers.

4) Servetus at first courted the reformer Calvin but, when his religious views were spurned, Servetus not only published a book of his beliefs but ended it with a venomous attack on Calvin. Worst of all, Servetus neglected to remove himself from the jurisdictional reach of Calvin before doing this.

5) In an attempt to rectify his earlier error of judgment, Servetus managed to escape from prison but relocated himself only as far as Geneva, where he probably took up with an anti-Calvin party planning an attack on the religious leader. The plot was foiled, with Servetus recaptured and brought before the Inquisition.

6) In Servetus, Calvin had a perfect "teaching tool." Roundly hated by both the Protestant and Catholic authorities, his death would not inflame undue tensions between the sides but would be an object lesson to everyone that orthodoxy of one sort or the other was the best policy.

7) On October 17, 1553, Servetus was burned at the stake in Geneva. A few days before, the Catholic Inquisition had burned Servetus' portrait in the absence of his corporeal form. It takes a rare talent to be burned by two opposing sets of religious zealots.

Oh, I said that I would try to pass on Wilkins' meme ... I didn't say I'd make it easy. It's selection, after all. Find the links if you can.

I guess that this meme has its advantages, and I had prayed this cup could pass by my lips, but thanks for giving this info on Servetus.

Quick question. If I had been a sixteenth century science-type person, what would have been my latinate adopted last name?

Haubrichus doesn't look all that impressive. Haubratus? Haubrus?

Yours would be easy, Pieretus.
I'd go with Haubrus if I were you, it has a nice muscular mechanical sound.

"Pierre-ette," no doubt the source of my name, of course means "small peter" ... and, yes, I have heard them all, now that you mentioned it.
So, what would mine have been? Nix?
It takes a rare talent to be burned by two opposing sets of religious zealots.

Thanks for highlighting a great figure.
Usually I hate memes, but I like this one. I've got a couple of good ones, but I'm having trouble deciding which one to pick.
I think I have got a line on your links.
If I had been a sixteenth century science-type person, what would have been my latinate adopted last name?
My surname is a anglicised corruption of Urdu version of an Arabic word. So would I latinise the current form (Ramjohn), the (putative) original (Ramzaan) or the Arabic (Ramadan)?
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