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January 20, 1962


JAMA. 1962;179(3):222-223. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050030036011

The proponents of the Iatromathematical School, exemplified by Descartes, Borelli, Sanctorius, and others, regarded man as an earthly machine whose actions, directed by a rational soul, could be interpreted mathematically. The mathematicalphysical laws which govern the universe also govern the human body. The time was the 17th century. Free thought was heresy to the theologians. The Inquisition continued to imprison and mutilate disbelievers and to ban or burn supposedly heretical books.

It was in this period of the Renaissance when the Church, Protestant and Papist alike, had sunk to one of its low ebbs that Descartes was born at La Haye, Touraine, France, in 1596. He inherited from his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a dry cough and a pale complexion but sufficient property to make him financially independent. His delicate physique and inherited resources gave him the excuse and the opportunity to become a bedroom philosopher. It