The Golden Age Of Anatomy - Vesalius
( Originally Published 1911 )
The Golden Age of discovery in anatomy culminated during the first half of the sixteenth century. This will not be surprising if it is but recalled that this period represents the culmination also of that larger golden age of achievement in art and letters, which has been called the Renaissance. Columbus and Copernicus were giving men a new world and a new universe. Raphael, Michael Angelo, Lionardo da Vinci, the Bellinis and Titian were creating a new world of art. Most of these artists were deeply interested in anatomy. Every phase of human thought was being born anew. Unfortunately, this word Renaissance has given rise to many misunderstandings. Many people have taken its significance of rebirth to mean that art and letters, and with them education and thinking, were born again into the modern world at this time with the coming in of the New Learning; just as if there had been nothing worth while talking about in these lines of human accomplishment in the preceding centuries. Taken in this sense, the word Renaissance is entirely a misnomer. Magnificent achievements in art and letters and every form of education preceded the Renaissance by at least three or four centuries. The Gothic cathedrals and the enduring artistic development that took place in their making, the magnificent organization of technical education in the training of artist artisans by the guilds of the time (we would be glad if our technical schools could accomplish anything like the same results, for evidently, though the name technical education is our invention, these medieval peoples had the reality to a high degree), and finally the universities, which have remained essentially the same down to our own day all these serve to show how much was done for every form of education many centuries before the beginning of the Renaissance so called.
It is not surprising that with this much of education abroad in the land men succeeded in making enduring literature in every form and in every country in Europe, and in setting examples of style in prose and verse that succeeding generations have nearly always gone back to admire lovingly. Such an amount of education and development of thinking could not have come without profound attention to science, and, as a matter of fact, there was much more anticipation of even what is most modern in our scientific thinking than most scholars seem to have any idea of. Personally, I have found, in writing the history of The Thirteenth the Greatest of Centuries, more that interested me in the science of this century than in almost any other department of its wonderful educational development.
We have already seen that while anatomy had during preceding centuries only the beginning of the' development that it was destined to reach during the sixteenth century, it would be a serious mistake to think that the study of anatomy, having died in the old classical days, was not reborn until the sixteenth century. This would be to commit the error that many ardent devotees of the Renaissance make with regard to all the accomplishments of this period. In spite of the contrary almost universal impression, the Renaissance was not original to any marked degree. With the touch of the Greek spirit that had come again into the world, it only carried the preceding work of great original thinkers to a high order of perfection. This happened as well in anatomy as in art and architecture and literature. Anatomical science was a lusty infant of great promise when Vesalius, the Father of Anatomy, came on the scene. The great painters, Raphael and Lionardo and Michael Angelo, owed much to Giotto and Fra Angelico, who had preceded them, but not more than Vesalius and his contemporaries, who did such magnificent work in original anatomical investigation, owed to Mondino, Bertrucci, Zerbi, Achillini, and above all to Berengar of Carpi and Benivieni, who did their work before and just after the sixteenth century opened. There is never a sudden development in the history of any department of man's knowledge or achievement, as there is nothing absolutely new under the sun, though it is still the custom of the young man in his graduation essay to talk of such things, and older men sometimes fail to realize the truth that in history as in biology, life always comes from preceding life omne vivum ex vivo and there is no such thing as spontaneous generation.
If the achievements of this earlier period of scientific work, which affected anatomy even more than any of the other sciences, be kept in mind, the discussion of the Golden Age of Anatomy will find its proper place in the history of the relation of the Popes to science. Though the date of the Golden Age in Anatomy follows that of the so-called reformation, there is absolutely no connection between the two series of events, for the one took place in Germany and the other in Italy. The Golden Age of Anatomy was indeed a perfectly legitimate and quite to be expected culmination of the anatomical interest which had been gradually rising to a climax in the Italian universities during the preceding century. It has a definite place in the evolution of science, and is not a sudden or unlooked for phenomenon.
If there was any place in the world at the beginning of the sixteenth century in which the ecclesiastical authorities had much to say with regard to what should not be taught and what should not be studied in the universities, it was Italy. In spite of this fact, all medical men who wanted to do post-graduate work in medicine went down into Italy. This was especially true for those who desired to obtain ampler opportunities for anatomical study than were afforded by the rest of Europe. In his maturer years as a student of medicine, Vesalius went down to Italy in order to avail himself of the magnificent field for investigation that was provided there. This favorable state of affairs as regards research in anatomy had existed for more than a century before his time. It continued to be true for at least two centuries after his time. As a matter of fact, Italy was to the rest of the world of the fifteenth and sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the home of post-graduate opportunities in all sciences as well as in medicine.
These are not idle words, but are fully substantiated by the lives of the men who stand at the head of our modern medicine. More than a decade before Vesalius was born, Linacre, the distinguished English physician and founder of the Royal College of Physicians, went to Italy to complete his medical studies and incidentally also to round out his education in the midst of the new learning which was so thoroughly cultivated there. When Linacre was leaving Italy, with true classic spirit he set up a little altar on the top of the Alps whence he could get his last view of the Italian plains, and greeted the charming country that he was leaving so reluctantly with the beautiful name of Alma Mater Studiorum. To him, after his return to England, English-speaking medical men owe the establishment of the institution which above all others has helped to uplift the dignity of the medical profession and make the practice of the healing art something more than a mere trade the Royal College of Physicians.
One of Vesalius's most distinguished fellow students at Padua was Dr. John Caius, who was later to become the worthy president of the Royal College of Physicians of England and the author of certain important medical works. Dr. Caius was the first to introduce the practice of public dissections into England. Caius and Vesalius were roommates, though at the time Vesalius was an instructor at the University, and the inspiration of his originality seems to have had a great effect upon young Caius. They were nearly of the same age, though Vesalius was a precocious genius, and Caius's greatness only showed itself in maturity. Caius was studying in Italy partly because the religious disturbances in England had made it uncomfortable for him to remain in his native country, for he was a firm adherent of the old Church and he hoped they would pass over, but mainly because he coveted the opportunities afforded by that country. Later in life, out of the revenues of his position as Royal Physician to Queen Mary and subsequently for some time to Queen Elizabeth, he founded the famous Caius College at Cambridge, usually called Key's College by Cantabrigians.
Before either of these men there had been a third distinguished English physician who had gone down to Italy for his education. This was the celebrated and learned John Phreas, who was born about the commencement of the fifteenth century. Very little is known of his career, but what we do know is of great interest. He was educated at Oxford and obtained a fellowship on the foundation of Balliol College. Afterward he seems to have studied medicine with a physician in England, but was not satisfied with the medical education thus obtained. He set the fashion for going down into Italy sometime during the first half of the fifteenth century, and after some years spent at Padua received the degree of doctor in medicine, which in those days carried with it, as the name implies, the right to teach. As not infrequently happens to the brilliant medical student, he settled down for practice in the university town in which he graduated, to take up both occupations, that of teacher and practitioner. He is said to have made a large fortune in the practice of physic. The best proof of his scholarship is to be found in some letters still preserved in the Bodleian and in the Library of Balliol College. Personally, I have considered that his career was interesting from another standpoint. I have often looked in history for the cases of appendicitis which occur so frequently in our day and with regard to which people ask how is it they did not occur in the past. The fact is, they did occur, but were unrecognized. People were taken suddenly ill, not infrequently a short time after a meal, and after considerable pain and fever, swelling and great tenderness in the abdomen developed, and they died with all the signs of poisoning. They were actually poisoned, not by some extraneous material, but by the putrid contents of their own intestines which found a way out through the ruptured appendix. These cases were set down as poisoning cases, and usually some interested person was the subject of suspicion. Dr. Phreas's learning had obtained for him an appointment to a bishopric in England, a curious bit of evidence of the absence of opposition between medical science and religion in his time. He died shortly after this, under circumstances that raised a suspicion of poisoning in the minds of some of his contemporaries but raises the thought of appendicitis in mine, and one of his rivals was blamed for it.
Nor did the custom for English medical students to go down to Italy to complete their education cease with the so-called reformation. Some two generations after Vesalius's time another distinguished Englishman, Harvey, went down to Italy to complete the studies he had al-ready made and eventually to lay the foundation of that knowledge on which he was twenty years later to construct his doctrine of the circulation of the blood. This doctrine, however, remained merely a theory until the distinguished Italian anatomist, Malpighi, after another half century, demonstrated the existence of the capillaries, the little blood vessels which connect the veins and arteries, and by thus showing the continuity of both the blood systems, proved beyond all doubt the certainty of the teaching that the blood does circulate.
Students came, moreover, from even the distant North of Europe to the Italian schools of medicine during these centuries. Neil Stensen, or as he is perhaps better known by his Latin name, Nicholas Steno, the discoverer of the duct of the parotid gland, which has been named after him, and of many other anatomical details, especially of the fact that the heart is a muscle, which stamp him as an original investigator of the highest order, after having made extensive studies in the Netherlands and in France to complete the medical education which he had begun in his native city of Copenhagen, went down into Italy to secure freer opportunities for original research than he could obtain anywhere else in Europe.
We have mentioned that it was while he was pursuing his special investigations in various Italian universities that Stensen was honored with the invitation to become professor of anatomy at the University of Copenhagen. This was not a chance event, but a type of the point of view in university education at the time. Just as at the present time the prestige of research in a German university counts for much as a recommendation for professorships in our American universities, so in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was it with regard to study in Italy. It was felt that men who had spent several years there could be reasonably expected to know all that there was to be known in the rising sciences of anatomy and physiology ; at the same time there was a very general impression, quite justified by the results observed, that those who did their post-graduate work in Italy were nearly always sure to make discoveries that would add to the prestige of their universities later, and that would be a stimulus to students and to the other teachers around them such as could be provided in no other way. If read in the proper spirit, the history of the universities of those times is quite like our own, only for influence, the name of Italy must always be substituted for that of Germany. Yet Italy, if we were to believe some of the writers on the history of education and science, was at this time laboring under the incubus of ecclesiastical intolerance with regard to anatomy and an almost complete suppression of opportunities for dissection. Those who write thus know nothing at all of the actual facts of the history of science, or else they are blinding themselves for some reason to the real situation.
Fortunately students of the facts of history, especially those who have devoted any serious attention to the history of medicine, make no such mistake. For them it is perfectly clear that there was a wonderful development in anatomy which took place down in Italy, beginning about the middle of the fifteenth century or even earlier, and which led to the provision of such opportunities for dissection and original research in medicine, that students from all over the world were attracted there. For instance, Professor Clifford Allbutt, in the address on the Historical Relations of Medicine and Surgery to the end of the Sixteenth Century, already quoted, has a passage in which, as an introduction to what he has to say about Galen, he sums up the history of anatomy from the return of the Popes from Avignon to Rome, which took place just about the beginning of the last quarter of the fourteenth century, down to the time of Vesalius. This expresses so well what I have been trying to say with regard to the gradual development that led up to the Golden Age of Anatomy and to Vesalius's work, that I quote it.
"Meanwhile, however, the return of the Popes to Rome (1374) and the displacement of the Albucasis and Avicenna by the Greek texts renewed the shriveling body of medicine, and with the help of anatomy, Italian medicine awoke again ; though until the days of Vesalius and Harvey the renascence came rather from men of letters than of medicine. The Arabs and Paris said : "Why dissect if you trust Galen ? But the Italian physicians insisted on verification; and therefore back to Italy again the earnest and clear-sighted students flocked from all regions. Vesalius was a young man when he professed in Padua, yet, young or venerable, where but in Italy would he have won, I would not say renown, but even sufferance ! If normal anatomy was not directly a reformer of medicine, by way of anatomy came morbid anatomy, as conceived by the genius of Benivieni, of Morgagni, and of Valsalva ; the galenical or humoral doctrine of pathology was sapped, and soaring in exceIsis for the essence of disease gave place to grubbing for its roots."
A sketch of Vesalius's career will give the best possible idea of the influences at work in science during this Golden Age of anatomical discovery, and will at the same time serve to show better than anything else, how utterly unfounded is the opinion that there was opposition between religion, or theology and science, and above all medical science, at this time. On the other hand, it will demonstrate that the educational factors at work in Vesalius's time were not different from those of the preceding century, nor indeed from those that had existed for two or three centuries before his time ; and though his magnificent original research introduced the new initiative which always comes after a genius has left his mark upon a scientific department, the spirit in which science was pursued after his time did not differ essentially from that which had prevailed before. He represents not a revolution in medical science, as has so often been said, though always with the purpose of demonstrating how much the so-called reformation accomplished in bringing about this great progress in anatomy, but only a striking epoch in that gradual evolution which had already advanced so far that his work was rendered easy and some such climax of progress as came in his time was inevitable.
Vesalius's earlier education was received entirely in his native town of Louvain. There were certain preparatory schools in connection with the university at Louvain, and to one of these, called Paedagogium Castri because of the sign over the door, which was that of a fort, Vesalius was sent. Here he learned Latin and Greek and some Hebrew. How well he learned his Latin can be realized from the fact that at twenty-two he was ready to lecture in that language on anatomy in Italy. His knowledge of Greek can be estimated from the tradition that he could translate Galen at sight, and he was known to have corrected a number of errors in translations from that author made by preceding translators. To those who know the traditions of that time in the teaching of the classic languages along the Rhine and in the Low Countries, these accomplishments of Vesalius will not be surprising. They knew how to teach in those pre-reformation days, and probably Latin and Greek have never been better taught than by the Brethren of the Common Life, whose schools for nearly a hundred years had been open in the Low Countries and Rhenish Germany for the children of all classes, but especially of the poor. Other schools in the same region could scarcely fail to be uplifted by such educational traditions. Altogether, Vesalius spent some nine years in the Paedagogium.
As illustrating how men will find what interests them in spite of supposed lack of opportunities, it may be said that from his earliest years Vesalius was noted for his tendency to be inquisitive with regard to natural objects, and while still a mere boy his anatomical curiosity manifested itself in a very practical way. He recalls him-self in later years, that the bladders with which he learned to swim, and which were also used by the children of the time as play-toys for making all sorts of noises, became in his hands objects of anatomical investigation. Anatomy means the cutting up of things, and this Vesalius literally did with the bladders. He noted particularly that they were composed of layers and fibres of various kinds, and later on when he was studying the veins in human and animal bodies he was reminded of these early observations, and pointed out that the vein walls were made up of structures not unlike those, though more delicate, of which the bladders of his childhood days had proven to be composed.
His preparatory studies over, Vesalius entered the University of Louvain, at that time one of the most important universities of Europe. At the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century, Louvain probably had more students than any other university in Europe except that of Paris, and possibly Bologna. There are good grounds for saying that the number in attendance here during the first half of the sixteenth century was always in excess of 5,000. The university was especially famous for its teaching of jurisprudence and philology. The faculty of theology, however, was considered to be one of the strongest in Europe, and Louvain, as might be expected from its position in the heart of Catholic Belgium, was generally acknowledged to be one of the great intellectual bulwarks of Catholicity against the progress of Lutheran-ism in the Teutonic countries at this time. Vesalius's parents were, and his family always had been, ardent Catholics, so that, quite apart from his dwelling not far away, it was very natural that he should have been sent here. He seems to have spent five years in the university mainly engaged in the study of philosophy and philology, but also of the classics and languages so far as they were taught at that time.
It may be noted as another instance in his life of how a student will find that which appeals to him even in the most unexpected sources, that Vesalius took special interest in certain treatises of Albertus Magnus and Michael Scotus, which treated of the human body in the vague, curious way of the medieval scholars, and yet with a precious amount of information, that this inquisitive youth eagerly drank in. More interesting for Vesalius himself were certain studies undertaken entirely independently of his university course. One of his biographers tells that he dissected small animals, rats and mice, and occasionally even dogs and cats, in his eagerness to learn the details of anatomy for himself and at first hand.
After graduating at Louvain in philosophy and philology, Vesalius went to Paris to study medicine. At this time at Paris, Sylvius, after whom one of the most important fissures of the brain, the sylvian, is named, was not only teaching anatomy in a very interesting way, but was also providing opportunities for original research in anatomy in connection with his own investigations. The interest that his teaching excited may be gathered from the fact that over 400 students were in attendance at his lectures. Besides Sylvius, Gunther of Andernach in Switzerland was also teaching in Paris, and with both of these distinguished professors Vesalius became intimately associated. His deep interest in the subject of anatomy would of itself be quite sufficient to attract the attention of professors, but he had besides the added advantage of being known as the descendant of a family which had occupied prominent posts as medical attend-ants to the greatest ruling family of Europe.
It was at Paris, then, that Vesalius first was able to devote himself with the intense ardor of his character to the study of anatomy. Nothing less than original research at first hand would satisfy his ardent desire for information and his thirst for accurate knowledge. His practical temper of mind was demonstrated by a revolution that he worked in the method of doing dissections at the time. The dissections in Paris used to be per-formed by the barber-surgeons, as a rule rather ignorant men, who knew little of their work beyond the barest outline of the technics of dissection. Teachers in anatomy used to stand by and direct the operation and demonstrate the various parts. These teachers, however, considered it quite beneath them to use the knife them-selves. The faultiness of this method can be readily understood. Vesalius began a new era in the history of anatomy by insisting on doing the dissections himself. It was not long, however, before he realized that Paris could not afford him such opportunities as he desired. Altogether he did not remain there more than a year, and then returned to the Low Countries.
At Louvain he continued his anatomical work, finding it difficult enough to procure human material, but using such as might come to hand. The story is told of his first attempt to get a complete skeleton. A felon had been executed just outside the walls of Louvain, and his remains were, as was the custom at that time, allowed to swing on the gibbet until the birds of the air had eaten his flesh and the wind and rain had bleached his bones. As might be thought, these bones were a great temptation to Vesalius. Finally, one night he and a fellow student stole out of the town and robbed the gibbet of its treasure. In order to accomplish their task no easy one, because the skeleton was fastened to the beams of the scaffold by iron shackles they had to remain out all night. They buried it and later removed it piecemeal, and when they had finally assembled the parts again it was exhibited as a skeleton brought from Paris.
Even this story has been made to do duty as showing the ecclesiastical opposition to dissection and the advancement of anatomical knowledge. It is hard to understand, however, why men will not look at such an incident from the standpoint of our own experience in the modern time. There are men still alive in certain states of the Union who recall how much trouble they had to go to as medical students in order to procure a skeleton. If we go back fifty years, nearly every skeleton that physicians had in their offices was obtained in some way almost as surreptitious as that just described, or was purchased through some underhand channel. They were dug up from potter's field, or sometimes procured from complacent prison officials, or occasionally stolen from respectable cemeteries. In this respect Vesalius was not much worse off than were his medical colleagues for nearly three centuries and a half after his time in the northern countries. It was easier to procure such material in Italy.
Vesalius had that precious quality that makes the investigator desire to see and know things for himself. He could not get opportunities for definite anatomical knowledge in the western part of Europe, so he gave up his practice, though Louvain, his native town, was a most promising place, having nearly 200,000 inhabitants and business relations with all the world at the moment, and went down into Italy where he knew that he could pursue his anatomical studies to his heart's content. The tradition of the work that Zerbi and Achillini had done, and especially what Benivieni and Berengar had accomplished within a few decades before this time, was commonly known in all the medical schools of Europe, and many an ardent young anatomist in the West yearned for the opportunities and the incentive that he could obtain down there. Church influence was predominant ; the ecclesiastics were the actual rulers of the universities, but medical science, and above all anatomy, was being studied very ardently. Vesalius thus prompted, came and found what he looked for. At the end of ten short years of work down there, he had completed his text-book of anatomy which was to earn for him deservedly the title of Father of Anatomy.
At first Vesalius seems to have spent some time in Venice, where he attracted considerable attention by his thorough, practical anatomical knowledge and independent mode of thinking. After only a short period in Venice, however, he proceeded to Padua, where he spent some months in preparation for his doctor's examination. It is known that, having completed his examination in the early part of December, 1537, he was allowed within a few days to begin the teaching of anatomy, and, indeed, was given the title of professor by the university authorities.
The next six years were spent in teaching at Padua, Bologna and Pisa, and in fruitful investigation. Every opportunity to make dissections was gladly seized, and Vesalius's influence enabled him to obtain a large amount of excellent anatomical material He began at once the preparations for the publication of an important work on the anatomy of the human body. This was published in 1543 at Basel, at a time when its author was not yet thirty years of age. It is one of the classics of anatomical literature. Even at the present day it is often consulted by those who wish to see the illustrative details of Vesalius's wonderful dissections as given in the magnificent plates that the work contains. It has become one of the most precious of medical books, and is eagerly sought for by collectors.
For ten years more Vesalius devoted himself to his favorite studies in anatomy and physiology, for it must not be forgotten that he was constantly applying his knowledge of form and tissue to function, and came to be looked upon as the leading medical investigator of the world. It is apparently sometimes not realized, how-ever, that Vesalius was no mere laboratory or dissecting room investigator. After the publication of his great work on anatomy he set himself seriously to the application of what he had discovered to practical medicine and surgery. He was an intensely practical man. As a consequence, it was not long before consultations began to pour in on him, and he came to be considered as one of the greatest medical practitioners of his time. Ruling princes in Italy, visitors of distinction, high ecclesiastics all wished to have Vesalius opinion when their cases became puzzling. This is a side of his character that many of his modern biographers have missed. Even Sir Michael Foster, whose knowledge of the history of medicine, and especially of physiology, makes one hesitate to disagree with him, seems not to have appreciated Vesalius's interest in practical medicine. A laboratory man himself, he was apparently not able to appreciate why Vesalius should have given up his scientific research in Italy to accept the post of Royal Physician to the Emperor Charles V.
Professor Foster thinks it necessary, then, to find some other reason than the temptation of the importance of the position to account for Vesalius's acceptance of it. He concludes that it was because of discouragement in his purely scientific studies as a consequence of the opposition of the Galenists. Opposition on the part of the old conservative school of medicine there was, and some of it was rather serious. This was not enough, however, to have discouraged Vesalius. Professor Foster goes so far as to wax almost sentimental over the fact that the acceptance of the post of physician to Charles V. ended Vesalius's scientific career; " for though in the years which followed the Father of Anatomy from time to time produced something original, and in 1555 brought out a new edition of his Fabrica, differing chiefly from the first one, so far as the circulation of the blood is concerned, in its bolder enunciation of its doubts about the Galenic doctrines touching the heart, he made no further solid addition to the advancement of knowledge. Henceforward his life was that of a court physician much sought after and much esteemed-a life lucrative and honorable and in many ways useful, but not a life conducive to original inquiry and thought. The change was a great and a strange one. At Padua he had lived amid dissections ; not content with the public dissections in the theatre, he took parts, at least, of corpses to his own lodgings and continued his labors there. No wonder that he makes in his Fabrica some biting remarks to the effect that he who espouses science must not marry a wife ; he cannot be true to both. A year after his arrival at the Court he sealed his divorce from science by marrying a wife ; no more dissections at home, no more dissections indeed at all ; at most, some few post-mortem examinations of patients whose lives his skill had failed to save. Hence-forth his days were to be spent in courtly duties, in soothing the temporary ailments, the repeated gouty attacks of his imperial master, in healing the maladies of the nobles and others round his throne, and doubt-less in giving advice to more humble folk, who were from time to time allowed to seek his aid. Whither his master went, he went too, and we may well imagine that in leisure moments he entertained the Emperor and the Court with his intellectual talk, telling them some of the fairy tales of that realm of science which he had left, and of the later achievements of which news came to him, scantily, fitfully and from afar."
Professor White has gone much farther than Sir Michael Faster. The English physiologist knew too much about the history of medicine in Italy even to hint at any ecclesiastical opposition with regard to Vesalius. President White, however, has no scruples in the mat-ter. This makes an excellent opportunity to write the kind of history that is to be found in his book. Apparently forgetful of the thought that the Emperor Charles V. was not at all likely to take as his body physician a man who had been in trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities in Italy, he insists that the reason why Vesalius dedicated his great work on anatomy to the Emperor Charles V. was " to shield himself as far as possible in the battle which he foresaw must come." Later he suggests that it was only the favor of the Emperor saved him from the ecclesiastical authorities.
All that has been said by historians with regard to the reasons for Vesalius's acceptance of the post of physician to the Emperor Charles V. can only have come from men who either did not know or had for the moment for-gotten the story of Vesalius's ancestry. The family tradition of having one of its members as physician to the Court of the German Emperor was four generations old when Vesalius accepted the position.
Vesalius's great-grandfather occupied the position of physician-in-ordinary to Marie of Burgundy, the wife of the German Emperor Maximilian I., the distinguished patron of letters in the Renaissance period. He lived to an advanced age as a professor of medicine at Louvain.
From this time on Vesalius's family always continued in official medical relation to the Austrian-Burgundy ruling family. His grandfather took his father's place as physician to Mary of Burgundy, and wrote a series of commentaries on the aphorisms of Hippocrates. Vesalius's father was the physician and apothecary to Charles V. for a while, and accompanied the Emperor on journeys and campaigns. What more natural than that his son, having reached the distinction of being the greatest medical scientist alive, should be offered, and as a mat-ter of course accept the post of imperial physician !
The simple facts of the matter are that Vesalius came down into Italy in order to study anatomy, because in that priest-ridden and ecclesiastically-ruled country he could get better opportunities for anatomical study and investigation than anywhere else in Europe. He spent ten years there and then wrote his classical work on anatomy. After that he spent some years applying anatomy to medicine. Then when he had come to be the acknowledged leader of the medical profession of the world, the Emperor Charles V., at that time the greatest ruler in Europe, asked him to become his court physician. Vesalius accepted, as would any other medical investigator that I have ever known, under the same circumstances. His position with Charles V. gave him opportunities to act as consultant for many of the most important personages of Europe, and it must not be forgotten that when the King of France was injured in a tournament Vesalius was summoned all the way from Madrid, and gave a bad prognosis in the case.
In the light of this simple story of Vesalius's life in Italy, and of the reasons for his going there and his departure, it is intensely amusing to read the accounts of this portion of Vesalius's life, written by those who must maintain at all costs the historical tradition that the Church was opposed to anatomy, that the Popes had forbidden dissection, and that the ecclesiastical authorities were constantly on the watch to hamper, as far as possible at least, if not absolutely to prevent, all anatomical investigation, and were even ready to put to death those who violated the ecclesiastical regulations in this matter.
Dr. White, for instance, has made a great hero of Vesalius for daring to do dissection. He was only doing what hundreds of others were doing and had been doing in Italy for hundreds of years ; but to confess this would be to admit that the Church was not opposed to anatomy or the practice of dissection, and so perforce Vesalius must be a hero as well as the Father of Anatomy. To read Dr. White's paragraph in the History of the Warfare of Science with Theology, one cannot but feel sure that Vesalius must practically have risked death over and over again in order to pursue his favorite practice of dissection and his original researches in anatomy. I would be the last one in the world to wish to minimize in any way Vesalius's merits. He was a genius, a great discoverer above all an inspiration to methods of study that have been most fruitful in their results, and withal a devout Christian and firm adherent of the Roman Catholic Church. He was not a hero in the mat-ter of dissection, however, for there was no necessity for heroism. Dissection had been practiced very assiduously before his time in all the universities of Italy, especially in Bologna, which was a Papal city from the beginning of the sixteenth century, and also in Rome at the medical college of the Roman University under the very eye of the Popes.
In the light of this knowledge read President White's paragraph with regard to Vesalius
" From the outset Vesalius proved himself a master. In the search for real knowledge he risked the most terrible dangers, and especially the charge of sacrilege, founded upon the teachings of the Church for ages. As we have seen, even such men in the early Church as Tertullian and St. Augustine held anatomy in abhorrence, and the decretal of Pope Boniface VIII. was universally construed as forbidding all dissection, and as threatening ex-communication against those practicing it. Through this sacred conventionalism Vesalius broke without fear; despite ecclesiastical censure, great opposition in his own profession and popular fury, he studied his science by the only method that could give useful results. No peril daunted him. To secure material for his investigations, he haunted gibbets and charnel-houses, braving the fires of the Inquisition and., the virus of the plague." (The italics are mine.)
A very interesting commentary on the expressions of Professor White with regard to Vesalius is to be found. in a paragraph of Von Toply's article on the History of Anatomy in the second volume of Puschmann's History of Medicine, already quoted. " Out of the fruitful soil so well cultivated in the two preceding centuries, there developed at the beginning of the sixteenth century the Renaissance of anatomy, with all the great and also with all the unpleasant features which belong to the important works of art of that period. One has only to think of Donatello, Mantegna, Michel Angelo, and Verochio to realize these. The Renaissance of anatomy developed in a field of human endeavor which, if it did not owe all, at least owed very much to the art-loving and culture-fostering rulers, Popes and cardinals of the time. Older historians have told the story of the rise of anatomy in such a way that it seemed that the Papal Curia had set itself ever in utter hostility to the development of anatomy. As a matter of fact, the Papal Court placed scarcely any hindrances in its path. On the contrary, the Popes encouraged anatomy in every way."
In the page and a half following this quotation Von Toply has condensed into brief form most of what the Popes did for medicine and the medical sciences, though more especially for anatomy, during the centuries from the sixteenth down to the beginning of the nineteenth. Some excerpts from this, with a running commentary, will form the best compendium of the history of the Papal relations to medical education and will show that they are strikingly different from what has usually been said. Von Toply begins with Paul III., who is known in history more especially for his issuance of the Bull founding the Jesuits. It might ordinarily be presumed by those who knew nothing of this Pope, that the Head of the Church, to whom is due an institution such as the Jesuits are supposed to be, would not be interested to the slightest degree in modern sciences, and would be one of the last ecclesiastical authorities from whom patronage of science could possibly be expected. It was he, however, who founded special departments for anatomy and botany and provided the funds for a salary for a prosector of anatomy at Rome.
After this practically every Pope in this century has some special benefaction for anatomy to his credit. Pope Paul IV. (1555-59) called Columbus to Rome and gave him every opportunity for the development of his original genius in anatomical research. Columbus had succeeded Vesalius at Padua and had been tempted from there to Pisa by the duke who wished to create in that city a university with the most prominent teachers in every department that there was in Italy, yet it was from this lucrative post that Pope Paul IV. succeeded in winning Columbus. Quite apart from what we know of Columbus's career at Rome and his successful investigation on the cadaver of many anatomical problems, perhaps the best evidence of the friendly relations of the Popes to him and to his work is to be found in the fact that, first Columbus himself, and then after his death his sons, in issuing their father's magnificent work De Re Anatomica, dedicated it to the successor of Pope Paul IV., the reigning Pope Pius IV. In the meantime Cardinal Della Rovere had brought Eustachius to Rome to succeed Columbus.
Under Sixtus V., who was Pope from 1585 to 1590, the distinguished writer on medicine, and especially on anatomy, Piccolomini, published his lectures on anatomy with a dedication to that Pope. It is well known that the relations between the professor of anatomy at the Papal Medical School and the Pope were very friendly. As was the case with regard to Colombo or Columbus, so also with Caesalpinus. Columbus was the first to de-scribe the pulmonary circulation. Caesalpinus is generally claimed by the Italians to have made the discovery of the circulation of the blood throughout the body before Harvey. Columbus had been at Pisa and was tempted to come to Rome. Caesalpinus had also been at Pisa until Clement VIII. held out inducements that brought him to Rome. Clement is the last Pope of the century, but Von Töply mentions five Popes in the next century who were in intimate relations with distinguished investigators into medical subjects and whose names are in some way connected with some of the most noteworthy teaching and writing in medical matters during the seventeenth century. It will be readily seen what a caricature of the life of Vesalius is Prof. White's paragraph, if one compares it with the following paragraph taken from so readily available an historical source as the article on the History of Anatomy, by Prof. Turner, of Edinburgh, in the first volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The distinguished Scotch anatomist who so worthily filled the chair of anatomy at the University of Edinburgh says with regard to Berengar of Carpi, who was the professor of anatomy at Bologna thirty-five years before Vesalius's time, that, " In the annals of medicine Berengar's name will be remembered as one of the most zealous and eminent in cultivating the anatomy of the human body. It was long before the anatomists of the following age could boast of equalling him. His assiduity was indefatigable, and he declares that he dissected above one hundred human bodies." This should be enough, it seems to me, to settle the question that anatomy was permitted very freely before Vesalius's time. Professor Turner's authority in such a matter is above all suspicion. He knew the history of anatomy.
If more evidence be needed, compare with President White's fantastic sketch of Vesalius the following sketch of his great contemporary, Columbus or Colombo, to whose anatomical investigations we owe the discovery of the pulmonary circulation :
" The fame of Columbus as an anatomical teacher was exceedingly great and widespread. Students were attracted to the universities where he professed, from all quarters and in large numbers. He was an ardent student of his favorite science and was imbued with the genius and enthusiasm of an original investigator. He was not satisfied with the critical examination of mere structure, but extended his researches into the more subtle, difficult and important investigation of the physiological function. He has been most aptly styled the Claude Bernard of the sixteenth century. The work of Columbus is a masterpiece of method and purity of style, as well as on account of its richness in facts and observations. He spent over forty years in these studies and researches. He dissected an extraordinary number of human bodies. It must have been an age of remark-able tolerance for scientific investigation, for in a single year he dissected no less than fourteen bodies. He also entered the crypts and catacombs of ancient churches, where the bones of the dead had been preserved and had accumulated century after century, and there, with unwearied care, he handled and compared over a half million of human skulls."
This account was written by Dr. George Jackson Fisher in his " Historical and Bibliographical Notes " for the Annals of Anatomy and Surgery (Brooklyn, 1878-1880). All the material that Dr. Fisher used in his sketch is to be found in Roth's " Life of Vesalius, " p. 256. Now, Columbus was a contemporary of Vesalius, and worked with him at Bologna. The years of their lives correspond almost exactly. When Vesalius left Padua to become the royal physician to Charles V., it was Columbus who succeeded him. Later he taught also at Pisa. Then, strange as it may seem for those who have put any faith in Dr. White's excursion into medical science, he was invited to become Professor of Anatomy at the Papal University at Rome, and it was while there that he had as many as three hundred students present at his demonstrations in anatomy and there that he did fourteen dissections in one year. The pretense that there was any ecclesiastical objection to dissection becomes absolutely farcical when one compares the life of Vesalius sketched by President White with a motive, and the life of his contemporary and successor, Columbus, by an unbiased physician, whose only idea was to bring out the facts.
According to Prof. White's opinion, Vesalius dedicated his work to Charles V. to shield himself as far as possible, and after this gave up his anatomical studies in Italy to put himself under the protection of Charles V.
Vesalius's successor, Columbus, did not have to do any such thing. Instead, he went down to Rome, and under the protection of the Popes continued to carry on his anatomical work there.
When Charles V. died, however, according to President White, a new weapon was forged against Vesalius. Vesalius was charged with dissecting a living man. President White hints that "the forces of ecclesiasticism united against the innovators of anatomy, and either from direct persecution or from indirect influences Vesalius became a wanderer." Just what that means I do not know. President White does not say that he was exiled, though that idea is implied. There is a great deal of doubt about this charge of Vesalius having made an autopsy on a living person. Roth discusses various versions. The whole thing seems to be a trumped-up story ; but supposing it true, would it not be only proper that a man who made an autopsy on a living person should be brought before the court ? He certainly would in our day in any civilized country. Professor Foster, of the University of Cambridge in England, following the lead of President White, in this matter, blames the Inquisition for instituting the prosecution. If this were true, no more proof would be needed that the Inquisition was a civil and not a religious institution, since after all the killing of a man by a premature autopsy is a plain case of homicide.
The fact of the matter seems to be that Vesalius, who had not been very well in the unsuitable climate of Madrid, made the trip to the Holy Land, partly for reasons of health, but partly also for reasons of piety. While returning he was shipwrecked on the island of Zante and died from exposure. Vesalius had been born in Brabant, at that time one of the most faithful Catholic countries in Europe. Like most of the other great men of his time, the reformation utterly failed to tempt him from his adhesion to the Catholic Church. His greatest colleagues in anatomy and in medicine were Italians, most of whom were in intimate relations with the Catholic ecclesiastics of the time and continued this intimacy in spite of the disturbing influences that were abroad. Many of these men will be mentioned in our account of the Papal Medical School and of the Papal Physicians during the next two or three centuries. The distinguished anatomists and physicians of France in Vesalius's time were quite as faithful Catholics as he was. Even Paracelsus, the Swiss, whose thorough-going in-dependence of mind would, it might naturally seem, have tempted him to take up with the reformed doctrines, had no sympathy with them at all. He recognized the abuses in the Church, but said that Luther and the so-called reformers were doing much more harm than good, and that until they were gotten rid of no improvement in ecclesiastical matters could be looked for. When Paracelsus came to die he left his money mainly to the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin in his native town of Einsiedeln and for masses for his soul. Since their time most of the distinguished medical scientists have been quite as faithful in their Catholicity as these two great medical colleagues of the Renaissance period. While medicine is supposed to be unorthodox in its tendencies, the really great thinkers in medicine, the men to whose names important discoveries in the science were attached, were not only faithful believers in the doctrines of Christianity, but were much more often than has been thought even devout Catholics.
At the death of Vesalius the Golden Age of the development of anatomy was not at its close, but was just beginning. Eustachius, Caesalpinus, Harvey and Malpighi were during the course of the next century to make anatomy a science in the strict sense of that word. After Vesalius's time the history of anatomy in Italy centers around the Papal Medical School to a great ex-tent. During Vesalius's lifetime his greatest rival be-came the professor of anatomy there. The anatomical school of Bologna, in connection with that city, became an important focus of anatomical investigation. At this time Bologna was a Papal city. It was in the dominions of the Popes, then, as we shall see, that anatomy was carried on with the most success and with the most ardor. Far from there being any opposition to the development of the science, every encouragement was given to it, and it was the patronage of the Popes and of the higher ecclesiastics that to a great degree made possible the glorious evolution of the science during the next century.
A false impression, exactly corresponding to that with regard to anatomy, has been created and fostered by just the same class of writers as exploited the anatomy question, with reference to the attitude of the Popes and the Church of the Middle Ages toward the study of chemistry. This is founded on a similar misrepresentation of a Papal document. When it was pointed out that this Papal document, like Pope Boniface's bull, had no such purport as was suggested, just the same subterfuge as with regard to anatomy was indulged in. If the Papal document did not forbid chemistry directly, as was said, at least it was so misinterpreted, and chemistry failed to develop because of the supposed Papal opposition. These expressions were used, in spite of the fact that, just as in the case of anatomy, it is not hard to trace the rise and development of chemistry, or its predecessor, alchemy, during the years when it is supposed to be in abeyance. Certainly there was no interruption of the progress of chemical science at the date of the supposed Papal prohibition, nor at any other time, as a consequence of Church opposition.
The similarity of these two history lies is so striking as to indicate that they had their birth in the same de-sire to discredit the Popes at all cost, and to make out a case of opposition on the part of ecclesiastical authorities to scientific development, whether it actually existed or not. The surprise is, however, that the same form of invention should have been used in both cases. One might reasonably have expected that the ingenuity of writers would have enabled them to find another basis for the story on the second occasion. Still more might it have been expected that when the error with regard to the tenor of the Papal document was pointed out to them, a different form of response would be made in the latter instance. The whole subject indicates a dearth of originality that would be amusing if it were on a less serious matter, and does very little credit either to those who are responsible for the first draft of the story, but still less to those who have swallowed it so readily and given it currency.
The story of the Supposed Papal Prohibition of Chemistry was characteristically told by William J. Cruikshank, M. D., of Brooklyn, New York, in an address bearing the title, " Some Relations of the Church and Scientific Progress," published in The Medical Library and Historical Journal of Brooklyn for July, 1905. The writer called emphatic attention to the fact that chemistry, during the Middle Ages, had come under the particular ban of the ecclesiastical authorities, who effectually prevented its cultivation or development. " The chemist," Dr. Cruikshank says, "was called a miscreant, a sorcerer, and was feared because of his supposed partnership with the devil. He was denounced by Pope and priest and was persecuted to the full extent of Papal power. Pope John XXII. was especially energetic in this direction, and in the year 1317 A.D., issued a bull calling on all rulers, secular and ecclesiastical, to hunt down the miscreants who were afflicting the faithful, and he thereupon increased the power of the Inquisition in various parts of Europe for this purpose."
At the suggestion of the editor of the Medical Library and Historical Journal, I answered these assertions of Dr. Cruikshank, pointing out that the Papal document which he mentioned had no such purport as he declared, and that the history of chemistry or alchemy presented no such break as his assertions would demand. Dr. Cruikshank immediately appealed by letter to his authority on the subject, whose words, in the History of the Warfare of Theology with Science in Christendom, though I did not realize it at the time, he had repeated almost literally. In his chapter on From Magic to Chemistry and Physics, Dr. Andrew D. White says : " In 1317, Pope John XXII. issued his bull Spondent pariter, levelled at the alchemists, but really dealing a terrible blow at the beginning of chemical science. He therefore called on all rulers, secular and ecclesiastical, to hunt down the miscreants who thus afflicted the faithful, and he especially increased the power of inquisitors in various parts of Europe for this purpose." It will be seen that, as I have said, Dr. Cruikshank's words are almost a verbatim quotation from this paragraph. It is true that he has strengthened the expressions quite a little and added some trimmings of his own, still I sup-pose his expressions could be justified if those of President White had a foundation in fact. A little comparison of the two sets of phrases will show how a history lie grows as it passes from pen to pen. Crescit eundo like rumor, it increases in size as it goes.
In defense of this passage in the History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, Dr. White wrote a letter of reply to Dr. Cruikshank, which was incorporated into Dr. Cruikshank's response to my article in the Medical Library and Historical Journal. I presume that this was done with Dr. White's permission.
In this letter he admitted that Pope John's decretai had no such significance as he originally claimed for it, but he still maintained his previous opinion, that this decretal, like Boniface's bull for anatomy, had actually prevented, or at least greatly hampered the study of chemistry. To this I replied with a brief story of chemistry in the fourteenth century, and though that article was published more than a year ago, no admission has been made and nothing further has been published on the subject. The material of the reply to Dr. White, to which as yet there has been no answer, is comprised in this chapter.
As I have already hinted, the most surprising thing about this citation of a Papal decree forbidding chemistry, is that it proves on investigation to be founded on just exactly the same sort of misinterpretation of a Papal document as happened with regard to anatomy. The bull of Pope Boniface VIII. forbidding the boiling of bodies and their dismemberment for burial in distant lands, did nothing to hinder the progress of anatomy, had no reference to any preparations required for dissection, and was not misinterpreted in any such sense until the nineteenth century, and then only for the purpose of discrediting the Popes and their relations to science. Pope Boniface's bull, far from being harmful in any way to education or to the people, was really beneficial, and constituted an excellent sanitary regulation which doubtless prevented, on a number of occasions, the carriage of disease from place to place.
The decree of Pope John XXII., which has been falsely claimed to forbid chemistry, was another example of Papal care for Christendom, and not at all the obscurantist document it has been so loudly proclaimed. Pope John learned how much imposition was being practiced on the people by certain so-called alchemists who claimed to be able to make silver and gold out of baser metals. In order to prevent this, within a year after his elevation to the pontificate he issued not a bull, but a very different form of document a decretal forbidding any "alchemies" of this kind. The punishment to be inflicted, however, instead of being the penalty of death, as Dr. Cruikshank, Dr. White and many others have declared, or at least let it be understood from their mode of expression, was that the person convicted of pretending to make gold and silver and selling it to other people, should pay into the public treasury an amount equal to the supposed amount of gold and silver that he had made. The money thus paid into the public treasury was to be given to the poor.
The best way to show exactly what Pope John in-tended by his decree is to quote the decree. It does not occur in the ordinary collection of the bulls of John XXII., for it was not, as we have said, a bull in the canonical sense of the term, but a Papal document of minor importance. There is an important distinction between a decree and a bull, the former being but of lesser significance, usually referring only to passing matters of discipline. The decretal may be found in the Corpus Juris Canonica, Tome II., which was published at Lyons in 1779. It is among the decrees or constitutions known as Extravagantes.
Alchemies are here prohibited and those who practise them or procure their being done are punished. " They must forfeit to the public treasury for the benefit of the poor as much genuine gold and silver as "they have manufactured of the false or adulterate " metal If they have not sufficient means for this, the " penalty may be changed to another at the discretion "of the judge, and they shall be considered criminals. " If they are clerics, they shall be deprived of any bene-" fices that they hold and be declared incapable of holding others. (See also the Extravagant of the same " John which begins with the word ` Providens' and is placed under the same title.)
Poor themselves, the alchemists promise riches " which are not forthcoming ; wise also in their own conceit they fall into the ditch which they themselves " have digged. For there is no doubt that the professors of this art of alchemy make fun of each other "because, conscious of their own ignorance, they are " surprised at those who say anything of this kind about " themselves ; when the truth sought does not come to " them they fix on a day [for their experiment] and " exhaust all their arts ; then they dissimulate [their " failure] so that finally, though there is no such thing " in nature, they pretend to make genuine gold and sil-" ver by a sophistic transmutation ; to such an extent does their damned and damnable temerity go that " they stamp upon the base metal the characters of " public money for believing eyes, and it is only in this " way that they deceive the ignorant populace as to the " alchemic fire of their furnace. Wishing to banish such " practices for all time, we have determined by this " formal edict that whoever shall make gold or silver of " this kind or shall order it made, provided the attempt " actually follows, or whoever shall knowingly assist " those engaged (actually) in such a process, or who-" ever shall knowingly make use of such gold or silver "either by selling it or giving it for debt, shall be compelled as a penalty to pay into the public treasury, to " be used for the poor, as much by weight of genuine gold and silver as there may be of alchemic metal, " provided it be proved lawfully that they have been " guilty in any of the aforesaid ways ; for those who " persist in making alchemic gold, or, as has been said, " in using it knowingly, let them be branded with the " mark of perpetual infamy. But if the means of the " delinquents are not sufficient for the payment of the " amount stated, then the good judgment of the justice " may commute this penalty into some other (as, for " example, imprisonment, or another punishment, ac-" cording to the nature of the case, the difference of " individuals, and other circumstances.) Those, how-" ever, who in their regrettable folly go so far as not " only to sell moneys thus made but even despise the " precepts of the natural law, pass the bounds of their " art and violate the laws by deliberately coining or " casting or having others coin or cast counterfeit money " from alchemic gold or silver, we proclaim as coming " under this animadversion, and their goods shall be " confiscate, and they shall be considered as criminals. " And if the delinquents are clerics, besides the afore-" said penalties they shall be deprived of any benefices " they shall hold and shall be declared incapable of holding any further benefices."
It is evident that John's decree against The Crime of Falsification" did not directly forbid chemistry, nor alchemy in the proper sense of the word, nor did it in any way interfere with the study of substances to determine their composition, or the synthesis of materials to produce others, provided there was no pretense of making gold and silver in order to obtain genuine gold and silver from ignorant dupes. There seems to be no doubt that had the famous scheme to obtain gold from sea water, which caused serious loss to so many foolish and even poor people a few years ago, come up during the time of John XXII., he would have prevented it from being so lucrative to its promoters; by publicly denouncing them and promulgating a law for their punishment.
It may be considered that excommunication was not a very severe penalty for such dishonest practices, and that the sharpers who gave themselves to such a profession, which would be about that of the confidence or green goods men of our time, were not likely to be affected much by this merely religious deprivation. It must not be forgotten, however, that in those ages of faith, excommunication became an extremely telling social punishment. It was forbidden that anyone, even nearest and dearest friends, should have anything to do with the one excommunicated until the ban was removed. It was bad enough in a town where everyone belonged to the same church, and all went to church frequently, to be forbidden to go there ; it was infinitely worse, however, to have everybody who passed refuse to greet you or have relations of any kind with you. President Hadley, of Yale, said, not long since, that social ostracism is the only effective punishment for such manifest extra legal irregularities, which are yet not so essentially criminal as to bring those guilty of them under legal punishment. The sentence of ex-communication was an effective social ostracism the completest possible. This is an aspect of excommunications usually missed, but well deserving of study by those who resent the use of such an instrument by ecclesiastical authorities. Just as soon as the man repented of what he had done and promised to do so no more, he was received back into the Church, and the ostracism ceased, so long as he did not relapse into his forbidden ways.
When the eminently beneficial character of this Papal document is thus appreciated, it is indeed painful to have to realize, that for its issuance John has been held up more to scorn and ridicule than perhaps has ever been the case for any other single formal document that has ever been issued by an ecclesiastical or political authority. He was simply correcting an abuse in his day, the existence of which we recognize and would like to be able to correct in ours. For this eminently proper exercise of the Papal power, however, his whole character has been called into question, and a distinguished modern educator has used every effort to place him in the pillory of history, as one of the men who have done most to hamper progress in science and education in all world history. The amusing thing is the utter inequality between the document itself and its supposed effects. Of course it had no such effect as President White claims for it, and, indeed, he seems never to have seen the document in its entirety before it was called forcibly to his attention long after his declarations with regard to it were published. The real attitude of Pope John XXII. with regard to education and the sciences, which was exactly the reverse of that predicated of him by his modern colleague in education, will be the subject of the next chapter.
There is another document of John XXII., the bull Super Illius Specula, that has been sometimes quoted, or rather misquoted, and which indeed at first I was inclined to think was the bull referred to by Dr. Cruikshank. This second Papal document, however, was not issued until 1326. It is concerned entirely with the practice of magic. The Pope knew that many people, by pretended intercourse with the devil or with spirits of various kinds, claimed to be able to injure, to obtain precious information, to interpret the future and the past, and to clear up most of the mysteries that bother mankind. We have them still with us the palmist, the fortune-teller, the fake-spiritist. In order to prevent such impostures, John issued a bull forbidding such practices under pain of excommunication. It is almost needless to say that this Papal document must have effected quite as much good for the people at large as did the previous one forbidding "alchemies," which must have prevented the robbing of foolish dupes who were taken with the idea that the alchemists whom they employed could make gold and silver. Of this second Papal document, this time really a bull, we shall, be-cause President White has given it an even falser construction than the one we have just been discussing, have more to say in the next chapter.
We must return, however, to the decretai Spondent pariter, the decree supposed to have forbidden chemistry ; for as with regard to the bull of Boniface VIII., previously discussed, it seems that it is necessary not only to show that the decree was not actually intended by the Popes to prohibit chemistry, but also it will have to be made clear that it was not misinterpreted so as to hamper chemical investigation. This is indeed a very curious state of affairs in history. First, it is solemnly declared, that certain bulls and Papal documents were directed deliberately against the sciences of anatomy and chemistry by the Head of the Church, who wished to prevent the development of these sciences lest they should lessen his power over his people. Then, when it is shown that the documents in question have no such tenor, but are simple Papal regulations for the prevention of abuses which had arisen, and that they actually did accomplish much good for generations for which they were issued, the reply is not an acknowledgement of error, but an insistence on the previous declaration, somewhat in this form " Well, the Popes may not have intended it, but these sciences, as a consequence of their decrees, did not develop, and the Popes must be considered as to blame for that." Then, instead of showing that these sciences did not develop, this part is assumed and the whole case is supposed to be proved. Could anything well be more preposterous. And this is history ! Nay, it is even the history of science.
When I called attention to the fact that this decretal contained none of the things it was said to, and published the text of it, Dr. White very calmly replied : " Dr. Walsh has indeed correctly printed it, and I notice no flaw in his translation." Instead of conceding, how-ever, that he had been mistaken, he seemed to consider it quite sufficient to add, "I have followed what I found to be the unanimous opinion of the standard historians of chemistry." He did not mention any of the historians, however. I asked him by letter to name some of the standard historians of chemistry who made this declaration, but though I received a courteous reply, it contained no names, and, indeed, avoided the question of chemistry entirely. It is not too much to expect that an historian shall quote his authorities. Dr. White seems to be above this. Some documents that he quotes are distorted, and prove on examination, as we have seen, to have quite a different meaning to that which he gives them. As might be expected, his supposed facts prove to have as little foundation. It will be remembered that he completely ignored or was ignorant of the history of anatomy. He seems to have been just as ignorant of the history of chemistry, in spite of his confident assurance in making far-reaching statements with regard to it. In order to satisfy myself, I went through all of the standard histories of chemistry in German, English and French that are available in the libraries of New York City, and I failed to find a single one of them which contains anything that might be supposed even distantly to confirm President White's assertion.
I may have missed it, and shall be glad to know if I have. I cannot do more than cite certain of them that should have it very prominently, if Dr. White's assertion is to be taken at its face value. Here are some standard historians whom I have searched in vain for the declaration that all of them should have.
Kopp, who is the German historian of chemistry, mentions the fact that there was much less cultivation of chemistry during the fourteenth century than during the thirteenth, but makes no mention of the bull of Pope John as being responsible for it. There are curious cycles of interest in particular departments of science, with intervals of comparative lack of interest that can only be explained by the diversion of human mind to other departments of study. This seems to have happened with regard to chemistry in the fourteenth century.
Hoefer, the French historian of chemistry, mentions the fact that Pope John XXII. took severe measures against the alchemists who then wandered throughout the country, seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the credulity of the people. He evidently knew of this decree then, but he says nothing of its forbidding or being misinterpreted, so as to seem to forbid chemical investigation. Thomson, the English historian of chemistry, has no mention of any break in the development of chemical science, caused by any action of the Popes, though, to the surprise doubtless of most readers, he devotes considerable space to the history of chemical investigation during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Ernst von Meyer mentions the fact that alchemy was abused by charlatans, in order to make pretended gold and silver, and notes that there was not so much interest in chemistry in the fourteenth as in the thirteenth century, but does not ascribe this fact to the bull of Pope John.
I expected at least that I should find something with regard to the question of the possible influence of the bull in Berthelot's " History of Chemistry in the Middle Ages.' 1 But though there are various historical topics treated that would seem to imply the necessity for saying something about the bull, if it had any such effect as described, yet there is no mention of it. He mentions the Franciscan alchemists of northern Italy, who lived about this time, and discusses the " Rosarium," written very probably after the date of the bull by a Franciscan monk, but there is no suggestion as to any hampering of alchemy by Papal or other ecclesiastical restrictions.
The French Grande Encyclopedie does not mention it, nor does a German encyclopaedia, also consulted. Even the encyclopaedia Britannica, in its article on alchemy, makes no mention of the prohibition of alchemy by Pope John XXII., and when the Encyclopedia Britannica does not mention any scandal with regard to the Popes, then the scandal in question must have an extremely slight or no foundation.
Of course this is what might be expected. Anyone who reads the Papal decree can see at once that it has nothing to do with, or say about, chemistry or chemical investigation. Since, however, an aspersion has been cast upon the progress of chemistry during the Middle Ages, and since it will surely be thought by many people that, if chemistry did not happen to interest mankind at that time, it must have been because the Pope was opposed to it (for such seems to be the curious chain of reasoning of certain scholars), it has seemed well to re-view briefly the story of chemistry during the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. More will be said about it in the chapter on Science at the medieval Universities, and here the only idea is to bring out the fact that men were interested in what we now call chemical problems ; that whatever interest they had was absolutely unhampered by ecclesiastical opposition ; that indeed the very men who did the best work in this line, and their work is by no means without significance in the history of science, were all clergymen; and that most of them were in high favor with the Popes, and some of them have since received the honor of being canonized as saints.
Take for a moment the example of the great English medieval scientist who wrote near the end of the thirteenth century a work on science, which was undertaken at the command of the Pope of his time, to show him the character of the teaching of science at the University of Oxford. Roger Bacon defined the limits of chemistry very accurately and showed that he under-stood exactly what the subject and methods of investigation must be, in order that advance should be made in it. Of chemistry he speaks in his " Opus Tertium " in the following words : "There is a science which treats of the generation of things from their elements and of all inanimate things, as of the elements and liquids, simple and compound, common stones, gems and marble, gold and other metals, sulphur, salts, pigments, lapis lazuli, minium and other colors, oils, bitumen, and infinite more of which we find nothing in the books of Aristotle ; nor are the natural philosophers nor any of the Latins acquainted with these things."
The thirteenth century saw the rise of a number of great physical scientists, who made observations that anticipated much more of our modern views on scientific problems than is usually thought. One of the greatest of the chemists of the thirteenth century was Albert the Great, or Albertus Magnus, as he is more familiarly called, who taught for many years at the University of Paris. He was a theologian as well as a physician and a scientist. His works have been published in twentyone folio volumes, which will give some idea of the immense industry of the man. Those relating to chemistry are as follows : Concerning Metals and Minerals ; Concerning Alchemy ; A Treatise on the Secrets of Chemistry ; A Brief Compend on the Origin of the Metals ; A Concordance, that is, a Collection, of Observations from Many Sources, With Regard to the Philosopher's Stone ; A Treatise on Compounds ; a book of eight chapters on the Philosopher's Stone. Most of these are to be found in his works under the general heading Theatrum Chemicum. Thomson, in his "History of Chemistry," says, that they are, in general, plain and intelligible. Albertus Magnus's most famous pupil was the celebrated Thomas Aquinas. Three of his works are on chemistry : The Intimate Secrets of Alchemy ; on the Essence and Substance of Minerals ; and finally, later in life, the Wonders of Alchemy. It is in this last work, it is said, that the word amalgam occurs for the first time. While Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus were working in France and Germany, Roger Bacon was doing work of similar nature at Oxford in England. Altogether, he has eighteen treatises on chemical problems. Some of these contain wonderful anticipations of modern chemistry. After Roger Bacon came Raymond Lully, who wrote, in all, sixteen treatises on chemical subjects. At about the same time, Arnold of Villanova was teaching medicine at Paris and paying special attention to chemistry. From him there are twenty-one treatises on chemical subjects still extant. Arnold of Villanova died on the way to visit Pope Clement V., the immediate predecessor of John, who lay sick unto death at Avignon.
It is evident, then, that there was no spirit of opposition to chemistry gradually forming itself in ecclesiastical circles, and about to be expressed in a decree by John. The chemists of the thirteenth century had been among the most distinguished churchmen of the period. One of them at least, Thomas Aquinas, had been declared a saint. Another, Albertus Magnus, has been given the title of Blessed, signifying that his life and works are worthy of all veneration. Pope John XXII. had as a young man been a student of these men at the University of Paris, and would surely have imbibed the tradition of their interest in the physical sciences. That he should have unlearned all their lessons seems out of the question.
It remains, then, to see whether there was any diminution of the interest in chemistry after the issue of this decree by John. In the fourteenth century we find the two Hollanduses, probably father and son, whose lives run during most of the century, doing excellent work in science. They frequently refer to the writings of Arnold of Villanova, so that they certainly post-date him. From them altogether, we have some eleven treatises on various chemical subjects. Some of these, especially with regard to minerals, have very clear descriptions of processes of treatment which serve to show that their knowledge was by no means merely theoretical or acquired only from books.
Probably before the end of the fourteenth century there was born a man who must be considered the father of modern pharmaceutical chemistry. This was Basil Valentine, the German Benedictine monk, whose best known work is the "The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony." Its influence can be best appreciated from the fact that it introduced the use of antimony into medicine definitely, and that substance continued to be used for centuries, so that it was not until practically our own generation that the true limitations of its use-fulness were found. Valentine described the process of making muriatic acid, which he called the spirit of salt, and taught how to obtain alcohol in concentrated form. Altogether, this monk-alchemist, who was really the first of the chemists, left twenty-three treatises, some of them good-sized books, on various subjects in chemistry.' It does not look, then, as though chemistry was much neglected during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
One step more in the history remains to be taken, which brings us down to a man who is more familiar to modern physicians—Paracelsus. Paracelsus received his education just at the beginning of the sixteenth century, before the Reformation began. He was not a man, as those who know his character will thoroughly appreciate, to confess that he had received much assist ance from others. He does mention, however, that he was helped in his chemical studies by the Abbot Trithemius, of Spanheim ; by Bishop Scheit, of Stettbach ; by Bishop Erhardt, of Lavanthol ; by Bishop Nicholas, of Hippon ; and by Bishop Matthew Schacht.
We have been able to follow, then, the development of chemistry during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries down to the time of the Reformation, and find no-where any lessening of the ardor for chemical studies, though most of the great names in the science continue to be, as they were before the decree was issued, those of distinguished ecclesiastics. John's decree, then, was neither intended to hamper the development of chemistry, nor did it accidentally prevent those who were most closely in touch with the ecclesiastical authorities from pursuing their studies. Those, of course, who knew anything of the character of the author, would not expect it to interfere with the true progress of science. As we shall see in the next chapter, Pope John XXII. was really one of the most liberal patrons of education and of science in history.