1893 text

This was Arthur Coga, who had studied at Cambridge, and was said to be a bachelor of divinity. He was indigent, and “looked upon as a very freakish and extravagant man.” Dr. King, in a letter to the Hon. Robert Boyle, remarks “that Mr. Coga was about thirty-two years of age; that he spoke Latin well, when he was in company, which he liked, but that his brain was sometimes a little too warm.” The experiment was performed on November 23rd, 1667, by Dr. King, at Arundel House, in the presence of many spectators of quality, and four or five physicians. Coga wrote a description of his own case in Latin, and when asked why he had not the blood of some other creature, instead of that of a sheep, transfused into him, answered, “Sanguis ovis symbolicam quandam facultatem habet cum sanguine Christi, quia Christus est agnus Dei” (Birch’s “History of the Royal Society,” vol. ii., pp. 214-16). Coga was the first person in England to be experimented upon; previous experiments were made by the transfusion of the blood of one dog into another. See November 14th, 1666 (vol. vi., p. 64).

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

3 Annotations

First Reading

Mark S  •  Link

"Sanguis ovis symbolicam quandam facultatem habet cum sanguine Christi, quia Christus est agnus Dei."

"The blood of a sheep was once a powerful symbol of the blood of Christ, because Christ is the lamb of God."

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Strange Early Days of Blood Transfusion
In May 1665 [the] physician, Robert Lower of Oxford, described an animal-to-animal blood transfusion in a letter to Boyle. This letter was read at a Royal Society meeting in September 1666, and Lower’s book Tractatus de Corde includes a description as well. The great diarist Samuel Pepys also noted Lower’s experiments. The technique, Pepys said, quoting an informant, “may, if it takes, be of mighty use to man’s health, for the amending of bad blood by borrowing from a better body.”

Also recorded by Pepys and in the Transactions of the Royal Society was Lower’s transfusion of animal blood into Arthur Coga on Nov. 22, 1667. Assisted by Dr. Edmund King, Lower used quills and silver pipes to convey blood from a sheep’s carotid artery into a vein in Coga’s arm. The following month, another transfusion was done, and Coga declared that he felt better. Pepys cryptically noted that Coga “is cracked a little in the head.”

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Apparently Charles II and Louis XIV were involved in a scientific race at this time. Harvey had proved that blood circulated through the heart, and Rene Descartes had sold the French on that idea in the 1630's. But Galen still held the day, while Descartes argued that animal blood was better than humans, because they were pure.

For more about the French experiments, and a murder originally blamed on a transfusion until it was proved the wife had poisoned the poor victim, see:

"Jean Denis and the “Transfusion Affair”
PUBLISHED March 22, 2023 By Peter Sahlins


"During the late 1660s in Paris, transfusing the blood of calves and lambs into human veins held the promise of renewed youth and vigor. Peter Sahlins explores Jean Denis’ controversial experiments driven by his belief in the moral superiority of animal blood: a substance that could help redeem the fallen state of humanity.

"Beginning in the spring of 1667, public opinion in Paris was rocked by a remarkable affair involving domesticated animals: the first practical experiments to transfuse animal blood into humans for therapeutic purposes. The experiments that came to be known as the “Transfusion Affair” were shrouded in the competing claims of a highly public controversy in which consensus and truth, alongside the animal subjects themselves, were the first victims. “There was never anything that divided opinion as much as we presently witness with the transfusions”, wrote the Parisian lawyer at Parlement, Louis de Basril, late in the affair, in February 1668. “It is a topic of the salons, an amusement at the court, the subject of philosophical dissertations; and doctors talk incessantly about it in all their consultations.”

At the center of the controversy was the young Montpellier physician and “most able Cartesian philosopher” Jean Denis, recently established in Paris, who experimented with animal blood to cure sickness, especially madness, and to prolong life.
With the talented surgeon Paul Emmerez, Denis transfused small amounts of blood from the carotid arteries of calves, lambs, and kid goats into the veins of 5 ailing human patients between June 1667 and January 1668. Two died, but 3 were purportedly cured and rejuvenated.

The experiments divided the medical establishment and engaged a Parisian public avid for scientific discoveries, especially medical therapies to cure disease and to stay forever young.


Ah, the desire to stay forever young.

The illustrations are informative, if a bit graphic. Poor dogs!

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.