Medicine before Science: The Business of Medicine from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment

By Roger French | Go to book overview

CHAPTER2

Galen

INTRODUCTION

Galen was, in the words of a number of Renaissance title-pages, the 'Prince of Physicians, second only to Hippocrates'. 1 For those who founded and followed the Latin medical tradition of the West, what was the relationship between the Father of Medicine and the great Galen, physician to emperors? What did medieval and Renaissance man find in Galen as he found medical wisdom in Hippocrates? The answer in brief is that he found rationality and learning in a richer measure and partly of a new kind. Galen was a potent image of the Learned and Rational Doctor who had a Good Story to tell to his patients.

We can best demonstrate this by following Galen's life. Galen wrote voluminously and often very personally, quite unlike the impersonal historia-like reports, case-histories and aphorisms of the Hippocratic writings. It was partly a question of time and place: Galen was born in about AD 129, some five hundred years after the earlier of the Hippocratic works had been written. His home town was Pergamon, an important Hellenistic city, but the political centre of his world was imperial Rome where, he decided, his medical career was to be. Galen was the son of a prosperous architect called Nikon and as a young man had received an extensive education in philosophy. He seems to have had a particular interest in problems of proof, or demonstration. But Galen's father, guided by a dream (we might call it non-medical prognostication) sent his sixteen-year-old son to learn medicine. Galen's particular interest was anatomy, and he pursued the famous teachers of the time — particularly Numesianus the anatomist — at Smyrna, Corinth and Alexandria, where a human skeleton was on show. However, it appears he was not given much opportunity to dissect human

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1
See, for example, the address by Fabius Paulinus to the Venetian College of Physicians in the first volume of the Giunta edition of Galen of 1625: Galeni Opera ex nona Iuntarum Editione, Venice (Giunta) 1625.

-34-

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Medicine before Science: The Business of Medicine from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Medicine Before Science *
  • Medicine Before Science - The Business of Medicine from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment *
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Sources *
  • Chapter 1 - Hippocrates and the Philosophers 9
  • Chapter 2 - Galen 34
  • Part II - The Latin Tradition *
  • Chapter 3 - Medieval Schools 59
  • Chapter 4 - Scholastic Medicine 88
  • Chapter 5 - The Weakening of the Latin Tradition 127
  • Part III - The Crisis *
  • Chapter 6 - The Crisis of Theory 157
  • Chapter 7 - Resolutions 185
  • Chapter 8 - Enlightenment, Systems and Science 222
  • Select Bibliography 260
  • Index 270
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