The “most able Cartesian philosopher,” Jean Denis (1635–1704), undertook a series of blood transfusions in 1667 and 1668 in Paris for therapeutic purposes, especially to cure madness, using the blood of animals. A range of actors and institutions opposed the controversial experiments, and the high law court of Paris condemned the practice in 1668. This article examines the attitudes toward animals and animal blood on both sides of the transfusionist debate and the resulting insistence on the “beast within” human nature that found a renewed expression at the beginning of the Classical Age.

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