Date of death: 216
Other names: Клавдий Гален
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , often Anglicized as Galen and better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher in the Roman Empire. Arguably the most accomplished of all medical researchers of antiquity, Galen influenced the development of various scientific disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and neurology, as well as philosophy and logic.
The son of Aelius Nicon, a wealthy architect with scholarly interests, Galen received a comprehensive education that prepared him for a successful career as a physician and philosopher. Born in Pergamon , Galen traveled extensively, exposing himself to a wide variety of medical theories and discoveries before settling in Rome, where he served prominent members of Roman society and eventually was given the position of personal physician to several emperors.
Galen's understanding of anatomy and medicine was principally influenced by the then-current theory of humorism , as advanced by ancient Greek physicians such as Hippocrates. His theories dominated and influenced Western medical science for more than 1,300 years. His anatomical reports, based mainly on dissection of monkeys, especially the Barbary macaque, and pigs, remained uncontested until 1543, when printed descriptions and illustrations of human dissections were published in the seminal work De humani corporis fabrica by Andreas Vesalius where Galen's physiological theory was accommodated to these new observations. Galen's theory of the physiology of the circulatory system endured until 1221, when Ibn al-Nafis published his encyclopedia of medicine entitled As-Shamil fi Tibb, in which he established that blood circulates, with the heart acting as a pump.
Galen saw himself as both a physician and a philosopher, as he wrote in his treatise entitled That the Best Physician Is Also a Philosopher. Galen was very interested in the debate between the rationalist and empiricist medical sects, and his use of direct observation, dissection and vivisection represents a complex middle ground between the extremes of those two viewpoints. Many of his works have been preserved and/or translated from the original Greek, although many were destroyed and some credited to him are believed to be spurious. Although there is some debate over the date of his death, he was no younger than seventy when he died.
In medieval Europe, Galen's writings on anatomy became the mainstay of the medieval physician's university curriculum, but by that time they suffered greatly from stasis and intellectual stagnation. Some of Galen's ideas were incorrect: he did not dissect a human body, nor did the medieval lecturers.
Galen's original Greek texts gained renewed prominence during the early modern period. In the 1530s, Belgian anatomist and physician Andreas Vesalius took on a project to translate many of Galen's Greek texts into Latin. Vesalius's most famous work, De humani corporis fabrica, was greatly influenced by Galenic writing and form.
„For truly on countless occasions throughout my life I have had this experience; persons for a time talk pleasantly with me because of my work among the sick, in which they think me very well trained, but when they learn later on that I am also trained in mathematics, they avoid me for the most part and are no longer at all glad to be with me.“
Galen. Margaret Tallmadge May (trans.) On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body, Ithaca, New York: Cornell U. Press, 1968. p. 502.
Context: A god, as I have said, commanded me to tell the first use also, and he himself knows that I have shrunk from its obscurity. He knows too that not only here but also in many other places in these commentaries, if it depended on me, I would omit demonstrations requiring astronomy, geometry, music, or any other logical discipline, lest my books should be held in utter detestation by physicians. For truly on countless occasions throughout my life I have had this experience; persons for a time talk pleasantly with me because of my work among the sick, in which they think me very well trained, but when they learn later on that I am also trained in mathematics, they avoid me for the most part and are no longer at all glad to be with me. Accordingly, I am always wary of touching on such subjects, and in this case it is only in obedience to the command of a divinity, as I have said, that I have used the theorems of geometry
„The fact is that those who are enslaved to their sects are not merely devoid of all sound knowledge, but they will not even stop to learn!“
Galen, On the Natural Faculties, Bk. 1, sect. 13; cited from Arthur John Brock (trans.) On the Natural Faculties (London: Heinemann, 1963) p. 57.
„Diogenes received an invitation to dine with one whose house was splendidly furnished, in the highest order and taste, and nothing therein wanting. Diogenes, hawking, and as if about to spit, looked in all directions, and finding nothing adapted thereto, spat right in the face of the master. He, indignant, asked why he did so? "Because," Diogenes, "I saw nothing so dirty and filthy in all your house. For the walls were covered with pictures, the floors of the most precious tessellated character — and ranged with the various images of gods, and other ornamental figures."“
Galen, Exhortation to Study the Arts, Coxe (1846), p. 479; cf. Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 32.
„He who has two cakes of bread, let him dispose of one of them for some flowers of the narcissus; for bread is the food of the body, and the narcissus is the food of the soul.“
Arabian Society In The Middle Ages, by Edward William Lane, (1883) citing Nowwájee, En-, Shems-ed-deen Moḥammad (died 1454), Ḥalbet El-Kumeyt, at footnote 167.
Latter day attributions
„Diogenes compared them to fig-trees growing over precipices; for their fruit was devoured by daws and crows, not by men.“
Galen, on Diogenes's views on the ignorant rich, in Exhortation to Study the Arts, Wakefield (1796), p. 217; cf. Stobaeus, iv. 31b. 48.
Latter day attributions
„It would be better, I think, for the man who really seeks the truth not to ask what the poets say; rather, he should first learn the method of finding the scientific premises that I discussed in the second book; then he should train and exercise himself in this method; and when his training is sufficiently advanced, then, as he approaches each particular problem, he should enquire into the premise needed for proving it, which premise he should take from simple sense-perception, which from experience, whether drawn from life or from the arts, which from the truths clearly apprehended by the mind, in order to draw out from them the desired conclusion.“
Galen, On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato,: PHP III 8.35.1-11 translation: De Lacy, Phillip (1978- 1984) Galen, On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato, Berlin. p. 233; cited in: Christopher Jon Elliott. "Galen, Rome and the Second Sophistic." p. 147-8.
Latter day attributions
Source: Day's Collacon: an Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations, (1884), p. 223.
Galen, On the Natural Faculties, Bk. 2, sect. 3; cited from Arthur John Brock (trans.) On the Natural Faculties (London: Heinemann, 1963) p. 139.
Galen (30-200 A.D.), in: Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, (1973), p. 19.
Latter day attributions
Original: (la) Triste est omne animale post coitum, praeter mulierem gallumque
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