Nov 16, 2020 in History



Claudius or Aelius Galenus was born in 129 A.D. in Pergamon (Bergama, Turkey). The modern scientific world knows him as Galen. According to Potter and Mottingly, Galen was the most famous Ancient surgeon and philosopher (63). His father Nicon was an architect. Furthermore, he was also a mathematician, a philosopher, an astronomer and botanist (Bendick 10). Therefore, he gave his son the best education he could. Young Galen was interested in medicine. At that time, there were no any medical educational establishments in Ancient Greece. Therefore, at the age of 16, Galen began studying medicine at the Aesculapius temple of Pergamon for four years. As Bendick states, ill people were treated there (26). Ancient doctors cured their patients with teas from various herbs and some natural medicine. They did not have a lot of knowledge about the human body but executed some surgery. Galen was one of the first medical scientists whose theories had being used for over 1300 years.


At that time, doctors had to travel a lot to in order to get some sufficient medical practice. Finally, Galen settled in Rome. There, he cured several emperors. Galen strived to understand the nature of various diseases. Therefore, he made dissection of various animals. Galen was one of the first ancient doctors who had noted that internal constitution of monkeys and pigs resembled the human one. His writings were uncontested until 1543. Medical scientists accommodated Galens theories to their contemporary discoveries. Galens theories of the human circulatory system were studied until the 19th century. His medical practice was based on the real life. At that time, he cured gladiators after their fights. Thus, Galen made many experiments on the nerve ligation. In result, he discovered that all muscles motions were under control of the brain. Galen discovered that the cranial and peripheral nervous systems controlled all human motions. He made his discoveries without any modern equipment such as X-rays or ultrasonic equipment and a magnetic resonance tomographic scanner. At the same time, Galen made his records so preciously that they became a base for many medical textbooks.

Galen considered himself as a philosopher, as well. It helped him to conduct his outstanding experiments using both empirical and rational approaches while studying medical science. Galen saw both viewpoints as an integral part of the medicine researches. Galen had to travel a lot. He had studied in Smyrna (Izmir), Corinth, Crete, Cilica, and Cyprus before going to Alexandria. He studied in the medical school there. Galen came back to Pergamon at the age of 28. He cured gladiators as a physician there. Galen became a famous doctor after eviscerating an ape and examining its organs. He successfully cured various wounds, fractures and serious traumas. Galen was such a skillful surgeon that only five lethal outcomes took place while his medical practice.

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In 162 A.D., Galen went to Rome. Local physicians plotted against him; therefore, Galen had to leave Rome. In 169 A.D., the plague burst out. Emperor Marcus Aurelius had to order Galen to come back to Rome. He became a court physician to follow Emperor in Germany. Next spring, Aurelius had to release Galen because Asclepius was against the Galens practice (Littman 250). Galen continued his medical practice as a physician of Commodus. Approximately in 189 A.D., a pestilence broke out in Rome. 2000 people died every day at that time. Galen was a physician of Septimius Severus. He made drugs for the emperor and his son.

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Galen was the first doctor who studied the plague. He had a very good experience in curing this dangerous disease. Galen made the first description of the plague and its curing. He focused on examining and curing internal and external ulcers (Littman 250). His records were the real textbook on the plague treatment. From 165 till 168 A.D., about half of people of the Roman Empire perished. Galen described in detail all symptoms of the disease. Moreover, his observations helped to detect which patient could survive. Galen considered that a patient could survive if he or she was covered with black exanthema caused by remnants of the putrefied blood. Galen could make prognoses for diseases. Local doctors were displeased with him. They considered Galen as their rival in fame and made their best to do away with him. Galen knew of it from his teacher Eudemus, whom he cured of Quartan fever when all doctors refused to treat him. At that time, Galens approaches to treat diseases were new. His numerous successes in the medical practice caused envy and dissatisfactions among the local doctors.

The precise date of the Galens death is unknown. Some scientists state that he died at 70, others when he was 87. At the same time, Galens theory of human temperaments became classic. Galen was a capable student. In result, he became a famous scientist. Galen discovered resemblance of the animals anatomical structures with the human one. He was the first who explained the origin of a voice and roles of the trachea, larynx and lungs. He was also the first who described the circulatory system and distinctions between venous and arterial blood. Because of the lack of any modern equipment, Galens researches of nervous and respiratory systems had numerous errors. At the same time, he was a skillful surgeon. He could cure the cataract with a surgery similar to the contemporary operation procedure. His approaches to make a diagnosis with the due consideration of the reason are important nowadays. He practiced venesection. His contribution to the philosophical science is the most important. Galen proved that medicine should use the theory with observation and practice to gain the best result in curing diseases.


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