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The Demise of Vitalism: Fernel’s and Servetus’ Vital Spirit and Harvey’s Living Blood

Ben Caputo, James Marcum


The origin of the natural sciences is attributed traditionally to a shift from symbolic biblical exegesis of nature to a systematic literal exegesis on its own terms. In contrast to Fernel’s and Servetus’ notion of vital spirit and their dependence on symbolic exegesis, Harvey benefited from this shift in terms of formulating a theory of blood circulation based on a notion of the blood’s primacy for explicating life. The shift in exegesis eventually led to the demise of vitalism.

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