Michael Servetus, a Spanish author, born at Villanueva, near Saragossa, in 1509, burned at the stake in Geneva, Oct. 27,1553. His proper Spanish name was Miguel Servedo. He studied law at Toulouse, but having become a disbeliever in the Trinity, he removed in 1530 for safety to Basel. In his 22d year he published De Trinitatis Erroribus (Hagenau, 1531), for which he was banished from Basel. In 1532 he published at Hagenau Dialogorum de Tri-nitate Libri duo: de Justitia Regni Christi Capitula quatuor, in which he defended his former book, and advanced a new heresy concerning the eucharist. Changing his name on entering France to Michel de Villeneuve, he devoted himself for some years to the study of medicine in Lyons (where he also worked as a corrector of the press), and afterward in Paris. He was at the university of Orleans in 1534. In 1535 he edited the works of Ptolemy with Latin notes. In the next year he graduated M. D. at Paris, and soon became celebrated as a lecturer on medical science. He divined the true method of the circulation of the blood, and with this and other conjectures in physiology anticipated Harvey and Hunter. In 1537 he published Syruporum Universa Ratio. He established himself at Charlieu, near Lyons, in 1538, and in 1540 removed to Vienne in Dauphiny, where he lived for several years in the palace of his former pupil the archbishop.
He revised a new edition of the Bible, founded upon the manuscripts of Sanctes Pagninus, which was put under the ban of the church; and gathered the materials for Christianismi Restitutio, the manuscript of which was completed in 1546, and sent to Calvin for corrections and suggestions. But the Genevan reformer retained it, and freely accused the author of heresy in letters to others of the Reformed clergy. The work was printed at Vienne in 1553, and the author was arrested and imprisoned for trial. On April 7 he escaped in disguise and reached the frontier; but his trial went on, and he was sentenced to pay a heavy line and be burned by a slow fire. The edition of his book was destroyed, only three copies being saved. Ser-vetus, on his way to Naples, stopped at Geneva for a month, and at the instance of Calvin was arrested. On Aug. 14 he was brought before the municipal court, accused of heresy, of publishing seditious books, of disturbing the churches, of escaping from the lawful authority, and of insulting the ancient fathers and the living divines of the Protestant church, especially Calvin. On the following days new charges were added, of Anabaptism, of pantheism, of contempt of the Bible, and of materialism.
Though the result of the trial could not be doubtful, it was agreed that the matter should be submitted to the decision of the Swiss churches. A paper containing 38 articles was drawn up by Calvin, and, with the answers of Servetus annexed, was sent to the various churches. The opinion of all was that Servetus should be condemned as a heretic, while they differed as to the severity of the punishment. In the final council of 60 summoned in October, the discussion lasted three days, but in the end the extreme party prevailed. The execution took place on a hill a short distance from the city. No exhortations could induce Servetus to retract, and his last words were a repetition of his heresy. His books and the manuscript which he had sent to Calvin were burned with him. Servetus had no disciples while living, but after his death the name of "Servetists" was fixed as a stigma upon the Swiss Anabaptists, and accepted by a small party who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. - His life has been written by Mosheim (Helmstedt, 1750), Trechsel (Heidelberg, 1839), and W. H. Drummond (London, 1848). See also Brunnemann, H. Servetus (Berlin, 1865).