89 Facts About Galen


The son of Aelius Nicon, a wealthy Greek architect with scholarly interests, Galen received a comprehensive education that prepared him for a successful career as a physician and philosopher.


Galen's views dominated and influenced Western medical science for more than 1,300 years.


Galen would encourage his students to go look at dead gladiators or bodies that washed up in order to get better acquainted with the human body.


Galen saw himself as both a physician and a philosopher, as he wrote in his treatise titled 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.


Galen describes his early life in On the affections of the mind.


Galen's father, Aelius Nicon, was a wealthy patrician, an architect and builder, with eclectic interests including philosophy, mathematics, logic, astronomy, agriculture and literature.

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Galen describes his father as a "highly amiable, just, good and benevolent man".


The city attracted both Stoic and Platonic philosophers, to whom Galen was exposed at age 14.


Galen's studies took in each of the principal philosophical systems of the time, including Aristotelian and Epicurean.


Galen's father had planned a traditional career for Galen in philosophy or politics and took care to expose him to literary and philosophical influences.


Galen's father died in 148, leaving Galen independently wealthy at the age of 19.


Galen then followed the advice he found in Hippocrates' teaching and traveled and studied widely including such destinations as Smyrna, Corinth, Crete, Cilicia, Cyprus, and finally the great medical school of Alexandria, exposing himself to the various schools of thought in medicine.


Galen went to Rome in 162 and made his mark as a practicing physician.


Galen was thoroughly attacked by the three attacks of quartan ague, and the doctors had given him up, as it was now mid-winter.


Galen retaliated against his detractors by defending his own methods.


However, Eudemus warned Galen that engaging in conflict with these physicians could lead to his assassination.


Galen was ordered to accompany Marcus and Verus to Germany as the court physician.


Galen was left behind to act as physician to the imperial heir Commodus.


Galen was the physician to Commodus for much of the emperor's life and treated his common illnesses.


Galen was physician to Septimius Severus during his reign in Rome.


Galen had experience with the epidemic, referring to it as very long lasting, and described its symptoms and his treatment of it.


Galen was not trying to present a description of the disease so that it could be recognized in future generations; he was more interested in the treatment and physical effects of the disease.


Galen describes symptoms of the alimentary tract via a patient's diarrhea and stools.


Galen observes that in cases where the stool was not black, the black exanthema appeared.

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Galen describes the symptoms of fever, vomiting, fetid breath, catarrh, cough, and ulceration of the larynx and trachea.


The 11th-century Suda lexicon states that Galen died at the age of 70, which would place his death in about the year 199.


Galen contributed a substantial amount to the understanding of pathology.


Galen promoted this theory and the typology of human temperaments.


At first reluctantly but then with increasing vigor, Galen promoted Hippocratic teaching, including venesection and bloodletting, then unknown in Rome.


Galen staunchly defended venesection in his three books on the subject and in his demonstrations and public disputations.


Galen believed that the anatomical structures of these animals closely mirrored those of humans.


Galen clarified the anatomy of the trachea and was the first to demonstrate that the larynx generates the voice.


In one experiment, Galen used bellows to inflate the lungs of a dead animal.


Galen was one of the first people to use experiments as a method of research for his medical findings.


Galen was the first to recognize that there are distinct differences between venous and arterial blood.


Galen believed that blood originated in the liver, which follows the teachings of Hippocrates.


Galen proposed a theory on how blood receives air from the lungs to be distributed throughout the body.


Galen declared that the venous artery carried air from the lungs into the left ventricle of the heart to mix with created blood from the liver.


Galen believed the circulatory system to consist of two separate one-way systems of distribution, rather than a single unified system of circulation.


Galen believed venous blood to be generated in the liver, from where it was distributed and consumed by all organs of the body.


Galen posited that arterial blood originated in the heart, from where it was distributed and consumed by all organs of the body.


Galen believed in the existence of a group of blood vessels he called the rete mirabile in the carotid sinus.


Galen was a pioneer in research about the human spine.


Galen played a major role in the discoveries of the Central Nervous System.

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Galen was able to describe the nerves that emerge from the spine, which is integral to his research about the nervous system.


Galen went on to be the first physician to study what happens when the spinal cord is transected on multiple different levels.


Galen worked with pigs and studied their neuroanatomy by severing different nerves either totally or partially to see how it affected the body.


Galen even dealt with diseases affecting the spinal cord and nerves.


One of the most famous experiments that he recreated in public was the squealing pig: Galen would cut open a pig, and while it was squealing he would tie off the recurrent laryngeal nerve, or vocal cords, showing they controlled the making of sound.


Galen used the same method to tie off the ureters to prove his theories of kidney and bladder function.


Galen believed the human body had three interconnected systems that allowed it to work.


The second theorized system was the heart and the arteries, which Galen believed to be responsible for providing life-giving energy.


The last theorized system was the liver and veins, which Galen theorized were responsible for nutrition and growth.


Galen theorized that blood was made in the liver and sent out around the body.


Galen used the same terms as Plato, referring to the three parts as rational, spiritual, and appetitive.


Galen was the first scientist and philosopher to assign specific parts of the soul to locations in the body because of his extensive background in medicine.


Galen's assignments were revolutionary for the time period, which set the precedent for future localization theories.


Galen believed each part of this tripartite soul controlled specific functions within the body and that the soul, as a whole, contributed to the health of the body, strengthening the "natural functioning capacity of the organ or organs in question".


Galen listed "imagination, memory, recollection, knowledge, thought, consideration, voluntary motion, and sensation" as being found within the rational soul.


Galen proposed that when the soul is moved by too much enjoyment, it reaches states of "incontinence" and "licentiousness", the inability to willfully cease enjoyment, which was a negative consequence of too much pleasure.


Galen then distinguished the vital pneuma, in the arterial system, from the psychic pneuma, in the brain and nervous system.


Galen placed the vital pneuma in the heart and the psychic pneuma within the brain.


Galen conducted many anatomical studies on animals, most famously an ox, to study the transition from vital to psychic pneuma.


Galen's creationism was anticipated by the anatomical examples of Socrates and Empedocles.

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Galen's writings were influenced by earlier Greek and Roman thinkers, including Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and the Pyrrhonists.


Galen was concerned to combine philosophical thought with medical practice, as in his brief work That the Best Physician is a Philosopher he took aspects from each group and combined them with his original thought.


Galen regarded medicine as an interdisciplinary field that was best practiced by utilizing theory, observation, and experimentation in conjunction.


Galen combined his observations of his dissections with Plato's theory about the soul.


Plato's influence in Galen's model showed itself most prominently in what Galen dubbed arterial blood, which is a mixture of nutritious blood from the liver and the vital spirit which was attained from the lungs.


Galen's education had exposed him to the five major schools of thought, with teachers from the Rationalist sect and from the Empiricist sect.


Galen was well known for his advancements in medicine and the circulatory system, but he was concerned with philosophy.


Galen developed his own tripartite soul model following the examples of Plato; some scholars refer to him as a Platonist.


Galen developed a theory of personality based on his understanding of fluid circulation in humans, and he believed that there was a physiological basis for mental disorders.


Galen connected many of his theories to the pneuma and he opposed the Stoics' definition of and use of the pneuma.


The Stoics, according to Galen, failed to give a credible answer for the localization of functions of the psyche, or the mind.


Galen, following Plato's idea, came up with two more parts to the soul.


Galen rejected Stoic propositional logic and instead embraced a hypothetical syllogistic which was strongly influenced by the Peripatetics and based on elements of Aristotelian logic.


Galen believed there is no sharp distinction between the mental and the physical.


Galen proposed organs within the body to be responsible for specific functions.


Galen's book contained directions on how to provide counsel to those with psychological issues to prompt them to reveal their deepest passions and secrets, and eventually cure them of their mental deficiency.


All of the extant Greek manuscripts of Galen were copied by Byzantine scholars.


Some of Galen's treatises have appeared under many different titles over the years.


The most complete compendium of Galen's writings, surpassing even modern projects like the Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, is the one compiled and translated by Karl Gottlob Kuhn of Leipzig between 1821 and 1833.


Many of Galen's works are included in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a digital library of Greek literature started in 1972.

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Galen continued to exert an important influence over the theory and practice of medicine until the mid-17th century in the Byzantine and Arabic worlds and Europe.


In contrast, in the predominantly Greek-speaking eastern half of the Roman empire, many commentators of the subsequent centuries, such as Oribasius, physician to the emperor Julian who compiled a Synopsis in the 4th century, preserved and disseminated Galen's works, making them more accessible.


The influence of Galen's writings, including humorism, remains strong in modern Unani medicine, now closely identified with Islamic culture, and widely practiced from India to Morocco.


Galen argued that monkey anatomy was close enough to humans for physicians to learn anatomy with monkey dissections and then make observations of similar structures in the wounds of their patients, rather than trying to learn anatomy only from wounds in human patients, as would be done by students trained in the Empiricist model.