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Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus (Greek: Κλαύδιος Γαληνός; September 129 – c. 200 / c. 216), often Anglicized as Galen and sometimes known as Galen of Pergamon (/ ˈɡeɪlən /), was a Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher in the Roman Empire.
- Hellenistic Schools of Medicine
- Galen’s Critical Empiricism
- Select Bibliography
Galen of Pergamum was a physician who was born in Pergamum was a bustling and vibrant city at the time and was particularly famous for its statue of Asclepius, a god of healing. Throughout Galen’s life, he avowed a devotion to Asclepius. The city also had a library that almost rivaled Alexandria’s in its size. Galen’s father, Nicon, was a prosperous architect. This allowed Galen the leisure to get an education and choose a path of life unencumbered by the need to earn money. However, this affluence did not mean that Galen was brought up “soft” (as per Plato’s discussion in the Republic 544b-570e in which he discusses the devolution of political systems due to the decay of personal arête). Galen’s education was broad and directed by his father. Galen studied in mathematics (a particular favorite of his father), grammar, logic, and philosophy–that included inquiry into the four major schools of the time: the Platonists, the Peripatetics, the Stoics, and the Epicureans. This pluralisti...
During the end of the fourth century BCE and throughout the third century BCE there were enormous advances in medicine revolving around the principal practitioners: Diocles, Praxagoras, Herophilus, and Erasistratus. During this period the debate about the relative roles of theory and observation were central to these writers (Kühn X, 107). It is, in fact, a perennial question in the philosophy of science. What is at issue is when does one impose a theoretical structure on the world? Part of the answer concerns the origins of the theoretical structure. From whence did it arise? In part, this is a struggle for a logic of induction that might assist the practitioner. Without such a theory of inductive logic, it is unclear whether nature is revealing her nature to the careful observer or whether the observer is imposing his own ideas upon nature. Aristotle discusses some of these issues in Posterior Analytics II.19 and in The Parts of Animals I. However, this is not the end of the quest...
Because of Galen’s pluralistic method, it is appropriate that (for the most part) his own method draws upon his predecessors with additions and corrections. For example, Galen employed the four-element theory (earth, air, fire, and water) as well as the theories of the contraries (hot, cold, wet, and dry). Though Aristotle interrelated these two descriptive accounts in his work Generation and Corruption, it is Galen who attempts to create a more gradated form by making quasi-quantitative categories of the contraries to describe the material composition of the mixtures (On Mixtures). From the perspective of modern science, this is an advancement upon Aristotle. This work on mixtures is also used to account for the properties of drugs (On Simples). Drugs were supposed to counteract the disposition of the body. Thus, if a patient were suffering from cold and wet (upper respiratory infection), then the appropriate drug would be one that is hot and dry (such as certain molds and fungi-do...
One of the striking features of ancient medicine is the extent that very limited observations had to be interpreted in order to explain natural function. For example, given that blood was considered to be nourishment, trophe, it seemed reasonable (following Aristotle) that the blood would be entirely consumed by the body’s tissue. Thus, the blood would be manufactured in the liver and heart and then would flow to the rest of the body and be consumed. The flow of blood went one-way. However, there was a problem: there were two sorts of blood vessels (veins and arteries). These were structurally distinct. This was known through dissection of primates. Then it is assumed that Nature does nothing in vain (discussed at length in On the Use of the Parts as a key biomedical explanatory principle). This means that the veins and arteries have different functions. But they cannot be too disparate. The answer to this dilemma for Galen is that the arteries carry blood mixed with aer or pneumath...
1. Galeni Opera Omnia. Basel: Par’Andrea to Kratandro, 1538.Kühn, C.G. Galeni Opera Omnia. Leipzig: C. Cnobloch, 1821-1833, rpt. Hildesheim, 1965. 1.1. This is still the standard edition though it is very gradually being supplanted by the Corpus Medicorum GraecorumLeipzig, 1914-present.
Key Texts in Translation
1. Abhandlung darüber, dass der vorzügliche Arzt Philosoph sein muss. [Quod optimus medicus sit idem philosophus] translated by Peter Bachmann. Göttingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996.L’Áme et ses passions: Les passions et les erreurs de l’áme. Translated and notes by Vincent Barras. Paris: Les Belle Lettres, 1995. 2. Galen on Antecedent Causes. Edited and translated with introduction and commentary by R.J. Hankinson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 3. Galen on Bloodletting. Tran...
Selected Secondary Sources
1. Barnes, Jonathan. “A Third Sort of Syllogism: Galen and the Logic of Relations” in Modern Thinkers and Ancient Thinkers. R. W. Sharples, ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.Boylan, Michael. “Galen’s Conception Theory” Journal of the History of Biology 19.1 (1986): 44-77. 2. Boudon-Millot, ed, fr. tr. Introduction génerale; sur ses propres livres que l’excellent médecin devienne philosophe. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2007. 3. Boudon-Millot, And Alessia Guardasole, and Caroline Magdelaine,...
Galen, Greek Galenos, Latin Galenus, (born 129 ce, Pergamum, Mysia, Anatolia [now Bergama, Turkey]—died c. 216), Greek physician, writer, and philosopher who exercised a dominant influence on medical theory and practice in Europe from the Middle Ages until the mid-17th century.
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Galen was a Greek who became the Roman Empire’s greatest physician, authoring more books still in existence than any other Ancient Greek: about 20,000 pages of his work survive. He was the personal physician to Rome’s Emperors for decades.
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