Michael Servetus (1511-1553) was born in Spain. He was one of the first Europeans to write about the principle of the circulation of the blood. He was a Unitarian, and an avid opponent of the doctrine of the Trinity. Servetus wrote three important works on his religious belief: ‘The Errors of Trinity’ (1531), ‘Two Dialogues on Trinity’ (1531), and ‘The Restoration of Christianity’. Martin Luther publicly condemned him in 1539. Servetus followed the views held by the early apostles who belonged to the Antiochene school of Christianity. Servetus corresponded with Calvin for more than twenty years. As a result of bitter conflict, Calvin had him arrested in Milan, and after a quick trial Servetus was burned to the stakes. Servetus is regarded by many as the “founder of modern Unitarianism.”
Another notable scientist that stood against the dogmatic concept of the trinity was the discoverer of Oxygen, Joseph Priestly. He had comprehensive arguments for the Unity of God and stood firmly against the trinity. Some of his contemporaries include Theophilus Lindsey and Benjamin Franklin. Joseph Priestly produced his most important and influential work, ‘History of the Corruptions of Christianity’ in two volumes. He affirmed the humanity of Jesus. He also denied the validity of the doctrine of Trinity. This cost him his house which was burned by a mob and so was a hotel where the mob mistakenly thought Priestly was present. His book was publicly burned in Holland. Joseph Priestly sailed for America with Benjamin Franklin in 1794, where they opened some of the first Unitarian churches in and around Philadelphia.
Perhaps the best known and interestingly the least persecuted of Unitarians was Issac Newton. In 1690 he wrote a manuscript on the corruption of the text of the New Testament concerning I John 5:7 and Timothy 3:16. It was entitled, “A Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture.” Due to the prevailing environment against criticism, he felt it unwise to profess his beliefs openly and felt that printing it in England would be too dangerous. Newton sent a copy of this manuscript to John Locke requesting him to have it translated in6to French for publication in France. Newton survived execution and banishment and his belief was carefully concealed from the generality of people.
Prof. Robert A. Herrmann of the Mathematics Department, U. S. Naval Academy states: “…it is clear that, already in the early 1670’s, Newton was absorbed by the doctrine of the Trinity. On this topic he studied extensively not only the Bible, but also much of the Church Fathers. Newton traced the doctrine of the trinity back to Athanasius (298- 373); he became convinced that before Athanasius the Church had no trinitarian doctrine. In the early 4th century Athanasius was opposed by Arius (256-336), who affirmed that God the Father had primacy over Christ. In 325 the Council of Nicea condemned as heretical the views of Arius. Thus, as viewed by Newton, Athanasius triumphed over Arius in imposing the false doctrine of the trinity on Christianity.
Newton further asserted that, in order to support trinitarianism, the Church deliberately corrupted the Bible by modifying crucial texts. For example, Newton claimed that the well-known words of I John 5:7 (”there are three that bear record in heaven, the father, the Word and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one”) were not in the original, pre-4th century Bible (Newton, it seems, was not a King James only man). Newton writes that “the Fathers…preferred to desert the Scriptures than not to condemn Arius”. Soon thereafter a universal corruption of Christianity followed the central corruption of doctrine: in the 4th century trinitarianism fouled every element of Christianity.”