Blood and Justice: The Seventeenth-Century Parisian Doctor Who Made Blood Transfusion History

By Pete Moore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Building on Harvey

The seventeenth century was both exciting and frustrating. Denis was caught up in the excitement of questioning the previously unquestionable — intellectual revolution was in the air. However, he was hampered by the fact that the recognised ways of conducting this sort of quest were only just beginning to emerge.

The key issue was progress, and the question was how to break the shackles that bound enquiring minds to Aristotelian patterns of thought, in which ideas and argument were more important than physical observations. The Renaissance had been a first step, but if anything it had reinforced the respect for this ancient mode of thought; people had rejuvenated Greek philosophy, given it a new lease of life and let it inspire a new generation of understanding. But this new understanding was still based on rhetoric rather than measurement. Consequently, there was little room for experiment-based pursuit of knowledge.

Worse than this, there was a growing body of opinion that, in many instances, the old conclusions were wrong. When people did perform experiments, take measurements and then try to make sense of their findings, they all too often found that ancient theories did not hold water. The Aristotelians dismissed this on the basis that any deviation from ancient teaching was bound to provide false understandings. Those who were bold enough to venture beyond these ancient confines saw it as proof of the need to take a new look at life.

The seventeenth century was therefore witness to a tentative dawn of a new freedom, and the'curious' — as this generation of thinkers often referred to themselves — cautiously started to shake themselves free. This wasn't a matter of instantly casting all ancient knowledge aside, but rather of insisting that every idea should be tested by

-17-

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Blood and Justice: The Seventeenth-Century Parisian Doctor Who Made Blood Transfusion History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Plates vii
  • Note on Sources viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 'Cast', and People Mentioned,In Order of Appearance x
  • Chapter One - A Vital Fluid 1
  • Chapter Two - Building on Harvey 17
  • Chapter Three - English Infusion 36
  • Chapter Four - Scientific Society 53
  • Chapter Five - English Transfusions 67
  • Chapter Six - Denis 'Route to the Top 91
  • Chapter Seven - Precedence and Prison 108
  • Chapter Eight - Playing Catch-Up 132
  • Chapter Nine - Mauroy Mystery 149
  • Chapter Ten - The Great Debate 161
  • Chapter Eleven - Mistake, Malice or Murder? 194
  • Notes 211
  • Timeline 214
  • Bibliography 219
  • Further Reading 224
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