CME INDIA Presentation by ⚜ Dr. M. Gowri Sankar, MD, Senior Assistant Professor, Dept. of General Medicine, Government Medical College and ESI Hospital, Coimbatore.

Today’s History Feature:

Claudius Galen

(130 AD – 210 AD)

💠 Ancient Physician & Philosopher

His Contributions…

  • Claudius Galen or Galen of Pergamun was born to the Greek parents in Pergamun (modern-day Turkey).
  • In that period, Pergamun was considered a vibrant and one of the most cultural cities. It is also famous for Asclepius’ statue, a Greek God of Medicine. In fact, Galen showed a great devotion to God Asclepius throughout his life.
  • Galen studied mathematics and philosophy under his father’s guidance.
  • At 16 years of his age, his father had a dream in which God Asclepius appeared and told that “Galen must divert his efforts to medicine and healing art.”
  • Thereby, he studied medicine at a local place. After his father’s death, he traveled to Mediterranean (Egypt) and spent around 12 years. There he learned some of the techniques in medicine and the art of healing.
  • After completion of his studies, he returned home and became the chief physician in gladiator school at Pergamun.
  • During his period, dissection of human body was made illegal in the Roman Empire. So Galen learned anatomy by treating the wounds of gladiators. Actually, he used wound as a window to see the functions of various parts of the body.
  • Subsequently, he studied the comparative anatomy by dissecting animals and applied those to humans.
  • Later, Galen moved to Rome and spent his remaining life in the Roman capital. There, he became a physician to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and then served as a physician to Aurelius’ successors.
  • He was influenced by the historical figure Hippocrates and used to compare medicine with the natural philosophy of Aristotle and Plato.
  • Thus, Galen brought philosophy into medicine and his methods came to be known as “Galenism.”
  • Some of his significant successes in medicine are…
    • 🔅 Diagnosis of disease by careful pulse reading method.
    • 🔅 Diagnosis of disease by careful attention to the patient’s urine.
    • 🔅 Diagnosis of physical symptoms caused by psychological disturbance.
    • 🔅 Proved that urine forms in kidneys, not the bladder.
    • 🔅 Cataract surgery.
    • 🔅 Discovered that arteries carry liquid blood rather than, as previously thought, gaseous air.
    • 🔅 Identified 7 of the 12 cranial nerves.
    • 🔅 Identified two types of blood – bright red and dark red.
    • 🔅 Discovered that the heart has four chambers and four valves and they allow blood to flow in only one direction.
    • 🔅 Studied the female anatomy and said that ovaries are analogous to the male testes. 
  • Moreover, he was a prolific author and his books are still in existence. “The Kuhn Edition of Galen” which has 20,000 pages survives Greek with a Latin translation, in which he documented the previous work of historians in medicine and compared with his experimental findings.
  • Undoubtedly, his doctrine of medicine dominated the Western and Arab medicine for around 15 centuries even after his death.
  • Once Emperor Marcus Aurelius described Galen as “First among physician and unique among philosophers.”

A Towering Figure in Medicine and the Philosophy of Science.

Claudius Galen 🙏🏼


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