Talk:Galen

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Structure[edit]

This has grown in classic Wiki fashion with random statements inserted without regard to overall structure, many of which were duplicative, non-sequiturs, or contradictory. I have cleaned up a fair bit of it after consulting sources, and separated biography from appraisal of work, and added more sources Mgoodyear (talk) 11:19, 29 August 2008 (UTC).

Good work. Power.corrupts (talk) 12:22, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

Leaves[edit]

I suggest that once all the cited works are sorted into a bibliography, that we move it to a separate Galenic Corpus in the same way that Hippocrates is organised. Mgoodyear (talk) 19:30, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

Sources[edit]

Sources in footnotes should be primary or secondary (scholarly) sources not unsubstantiated tertiary sources, some of which use Wikipedia as their source! These have been removed and moved to external links, otherwise Wikipedia as no greater authority than any other website that mentions the topic. Mgoodyear (talk) 15:10, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

comments[edit]

I don't think his contributions to Islamic thought and medicine are truly appreciated here, also there lacks a citation. I will look for substantiation and a fix RBSeven (talk) 19:17, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

So when did he die? 201 (top of page) or 203 (halfway down the page)? - Kimiko 18:45 May 2, 2003 (UTC)

I am a Galen scholar....we do not know exactly when he died. The date is usually put between 199 and 210.Cosans (talk) 05:03, 13 March 2009 (UTC)bobby!!

See rewrite today Northutsire (talk) 20:37, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

Bergama, the modern day Pergamon, is not in "Greece" but in Turkey.


SetarconeX Feb, 16, 2004

There seems to be a lot of debate in scholarly circles on the exact date of his death. Someone really should do some serious research into this.

Also, when was he born?? AD129 as i believed or AD131 as it states here???

--

The articlce states "His favorite subject was the barbary ape" but if I recall properly, he actually didn't like to vivisect apes because their "piteous cries sounded too human-like." Anyone else recall this? -Ikkyu2 23:01, 28 August 2005 (UTC)

this is correct he liked using the barbary ape for dissection. It is a tailess monkey that is related to the Rhesus monkey. It is correct he says people do not like seeing monkey's vivisected (ie cut open while alive in experiments). For vivisections he would use pigs a lot. He does describe vivisections on monkeys as well. In Galen's time none of our great apes like chimps had been discovered by science...so monkeys was a close as you got to humans. Cosans (talk) 05:03, 13 March 2009 (UTC) --

Why does it also link to Vasily Blyukher? I have read the article, and there is no mention of the word Galen in the article. Phalanxia 11:01, 8 October 2006 (UTC)

Oh wait, there it is..... :p Phalanxia 14:30, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

--

I think the sentence crediting him with inventing the "δουχβαγ, an instrument which is still used today in the remote and somewhat primitive Ουικιπεδια region" might be bogus - the region mentioned is Greek for Wikipedia... -ben84621-

It is or rather was a transliteration of "douch[e]bag" Northutsire (talk) 20:37, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

The line about twenty scribes seems a little fantastical...here it says he wrote everything himself, which took ages... http://campus.udayton.edu/~hume/Galen/galen.htm SchredlickEngel (talk) 00:46, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

Public dissections[edit]

The paragraph referring to public dissections is contradictory. At first it mentions that "One of his methods was to publicly dissect a living pig ..." but then it goes on to say "Crucially, he never dissected animals in public ...". Could someone clarify this issue? --GringoInChile 16:38, 14 May 2006 (UTC)

I also noticed this contradiction... does anyone who is actually familiar with Galen want to remedy it? If not I am just going to remove both parts. Dunne409 03:07, 29 May 2006 (UTC)
If nobody does fix it soon, maybe the paragraph could be commented out rather than completely removed in case someone does come along at a latter date to clarify the matter --GringoInChile 08:21, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

I think we should just remove the "Crucially, he never dissected animals in public ..." sentence, all the way to "... yet to reach Rome." The paragraph makes perfect sense without it, and I've seen a Modern Marvels documentary on the History Channel which corroborates the fact that he did public dissections. Hardly a source beyond reproach, I know, but given that the article makes mention of his dissections in several places, I'd support axing this sentence.Hegar 15:18, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

I agree--GringoInChile 19:39, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

I think Dunne409 has done a very good job with editing the paragraph in line with what Hegar reported. It is a lot clearer and no longer contradictory. Well done both of you. --GringoInChile 19:56, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

I have published on Galen...yes he did do public dissections and vivisections. Cosans (talk) 05:06, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Expansion[edit]

There is no mention of any of his works in this article. It says he writes but what did he write? It also doesn't mention what kind of experimenting he did with the brain. Maybe after I finish my term paper this weekend I'll work on it. But no promises.Aether24 06:56, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Missing[edit]

There's nothing here about Galen's ideas about the circulatory system - ie/ blood being made in the liver, seeping out, being 'used up'. Whilst these ideas have now been proved wrong, they were accepted as the truth for a very long time, until the time of William Harvey - early 1600s. Wattylfc 17:11, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

Year of birth[edit]

Was he born in 128 (first line) or 129 (category)? Every WP seems to offer its own year. --Eleassar my talk 09:47, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

My 1984 Encyclopedia Britannica says 129. The article had 129 until September 19th, when an anon IP editor changed it to 128, with no other changes or edit summary. I've changed it back to 129 And added referencing. Studerby 10:35, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Legacy[edit]

This section is wildly inaccurate and misleading. It claims:

As for the Western Christians, they abolished surgery in both knowledge and practice: it was pagan and it was a sin.[4]

The source cited does say this (near the end of the article), but provides no evidence for it. On the contrary, it attributes the decline in medical knowledge and practice to the destruction of the Roman empire by the barbarian invasions:

The destruction of the library at Alexandria coincided with the end of the Roman empire. One of the reasons for Rome’s decline and fall was a lack of central authority – the long-distance networks simply fell apart. And the same thing happened with medicine. It was not that medicine wasn’t still practised, but there was no longer a great centre. And when the centre of medical knowledge disappeared, the loss rippled through the empire. Everywhere great medical works disappeared, either deliberately destroyed or simply lost to time.

The source cited goes on to point out that Galen's writings were not only accepted by the church, but held in reverentially high esteem:

Even more unfortunately, many of his other theories (none of which had any medical validity) and his huge number of remedies (none especially useful) were used by doctors for centuries, becoming the medical equivalent of holy writ. In fact, they later became part of Church dogma.

Finally, and most ironic of all, the source cited states that Galen (not Christianity), was almost singlehandedly responsible for crippling Western medical knowledge:

The egotistical Galen would probably have been pleased to know that he effectively held back the advancement of medicine for centuries.

Saying that Western Christians 'abolished surgery in both knowledge and practice', because they believed 'it was pagan and it was a sin', is not only completely inaccurate but contradicted by the article's own statements. I would like to see a proper source cited, not this nonsense.

[I have added a link to a BBC article discussin an archaeological find from Yorkshire (10th-11th century] with an actual example of "Dark Age" cranial surgery saving a man that had received a critical head blow. Overall, the entire "legacy" section needs a complete rewrite to avoid being entirely inaccurate.]

This section in the article also represents Vesalius as being the uncritical and enthusiastic supporter of Galen's theories, whereas in fact Vesalius corrected Galen's many errors regarding human anatomy, because Vesalius was permitted by the Christian government to carry out autopsies on human bodies, which Galen never did. Galen was forbidden by pagan Roman law to dissect human bodies, and his theories on human anatomy were based on dissecting animals and guessing that they were identical to humans. --Taiwan boi (talk) 02:32, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

The big UTC)

The big source on Vesalius that scholars look at is the now classic book by O'Mally that I have cited. Vesalius can be seen as advancing Galen's over all method of basing anatomical beliefs on dissection. Galen openly talks about the fact that he is describing monkey dissections. Because monkeys are in fact very similar to humans you have to be able to spent lots of time dissecting both before you can observe the ways they actually differ. Galen could dissect all the monkeys he wanted, but his only chance for looking at humans would be in the case of patients where wounds had exposed structures and in those cases before anesthesia they would not hold still...and as a doctor he had an immediate responsibility to give treatment rather than take the time to see if he could notice any differences. In doing my dissertation research, which was published in two articles in the late 1990s, I dissected a monkey while following Galen's Anatomical Procedures in Greek and English. The fact that you can tell Galen is describing a monkey and not a human...as Vesalius reported...is only because Galen's text is so exact and not vague. Galen uses the word "monkey/pithecus" all over the place so the fact that you would see something different in human in no way refutes his description of a monkey. Galen says monkeys are similar enough to humans to use...but never that they are identical. If there was an option to look at as many humans as monkeys he would have recommended looking at humans. If you tested medical students on the differences between monkeys and humans during their gross anatomy course...most medical student would fail. Cosans (talk) 17:24, 13 March 2009 (UTC)


I removed the reference to Michael Servetus' burning at the stake for his theory on blood circulation. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think Calvin executed him on theological heresy charges rather than this. --163.1.199.81 (talk) 12:43, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Moving Legacy Section into a new article[edit]

I wanted to check with all the people that have been working on this, but I think it is time his legacy section gets turned into that first paragraph as a quick blurb and a main article that adresses the legacy as a whole titled "Galenic Medicine" or "Galenism" or something. I am pretty sure their is enough information on both the Arabic and Western uses of his medicine to make such a change. If I don't get a response soon I will move it on my own accord. SADADS (talk) 00:10, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

"From a medical perspective - Galen's greatest legacy is organising medical information into a proper systematic medical history that allows a doctor to work out what has happened within the body and to a lesser extent the mind of a person. Galen developed the "medical model". The information that is manipulated within the medical model is to a certain extent irrelevant, whether you believe blood seeps through the vessels or is pumped around the body by the heart. In recent years the medical model has become corrupted because it focuses excessively on "local causes" of disease rather than a more holistic approach to people where health is an integral part of the way a person is.

For example, his work on "humours and temperaments" reflects how a person feels generally. Galen believed that this was important and that you needed to treat the whole person rather than just the part that appeared to be effected.

I believe it is the very breadth of his legacy that makes us focus on details. It is difficult to believe that one man could have made such a massive contribution to medicine and its organisation, given the state of medical knowledge at the time and the resources to which he had access. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.158.180.100 (talk) 20:34, 1 January 2010 (UTC) Signed Dr Liz Miller

Pagan Rome and Christian Europe[edit]

The sentence in the Legacy section implicitly attributes the lifting of the ban against autopsies and dissections of humans to change of religion. It seems to be that this is unfounded, since I strongly doubt that the ban during the ancient times was strictly religious in nature. It seems likely that the dissections in Europe were inspired by the ones conducted by Arabic physicians with the translation of some of their texts. The reason that there was no ban against dissections in the Arab empire is unknown to me, but I wouldn't automatically assume that it has anything to do with Abrahamitic religion - as far as I know there is no specific mentioning of autopsies and dissections being allowed or disallowed in any of the core texts of these religions.

To sum up, the the (relative) acceptance to autopsies and dissections in Medieval Europe is not necessarily, or likely, due to religious changes and should hence not be attributed to them.

I will happily accept references to the contrary, though.

On a different issue – the sentence about Galen's influence being so great that empirical observations were disregarded when they contradicted his teachings seems to imply that this was also the case in the Arab world. That contrasts with the earlier paragraph that clearly states that his teachings were not taken unquestioningly there. I do not know enough about the issue to tell which one is right. The argument of the earlier paragraph seems solid enough, though. Phizq (talk) 10:35, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

Which part 'implicitly attributes the lifting of the ban against autopsies and dissections of humans to change of religion'? It just says that unlike pagan Rome, Christian Europe didn't prohibit autopsies. As for Europeans borrowing from the autopsies of Arab physicians after reading translations of their texts, I'd like to see evidence for that. In the 11th and 12th centuries there were Muslim physicians who carried out human dissections and autopsies, but I'm not aware they influenced the West, and after the end of the brief 'Golden Age' of Islam this came to an end. Islam has for centuries required the immediate burial of a body, and has prohibited both autopsy and organ donation. I'm not sure what it is about the other sentence which implies that the Arabs viewed Galen's teachings unquestioningly. --Taiwan boi (talk) 15:00, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
"Unlike pagan Rome, Christian Europe did not forbid the dissection and autopsy of the human body and such examinations were carried out regularly from at least the 14th century". This sentence is just plain wrong. First of all what about the 9 centuries prior to the 14th century, where apparently no human dissections was carried out? Furthermore from reading the article dissection it seems that there was several bans on human dissection throughout the middle ages. Possibly in some countries during some periods of time it was allowed, but the categorical statement that dissections was not forbidden in Christian Europe is clearly not true. --Saddhiyama (talk) 13:09, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
The sentence is not 'plain wrong'. Pagan Rome did ban the dissection and autopsy of the human body. That's precisely why Galen dissected Barbary apes and then made everything else up. Christian Europe did not forbid the dissection and autopsy of the human body. There was apparently a prohibition on routine autopsy in Italy during the 13th century (though I haven't yet found this in a reliable source), but that appears to have been a leftover of Roman law. If you have any evidence from reliable sources that Christian Europe forbade autopsies up to the 14th century, please provide it. Let's look at what you've suggested:
  • The article on dissection says 'It was banned in much of Europe under an edict of the 1163 Council of Tours', but no reference for this is given. In fact, the 1163 Council of Tours only forbade clerical physicians to perform autopsies, on the grounds that priests were not permitted to shed blood. This actually proves that autopsies were already taking place, and that the Council was simply regulating the practice to non-clerical physicians.
  • The article also says 'and an early 14th century decree of Pope Boniface VIII renewed the proscription', and notes '[dubious – discuss]'. Again, no reference is given. For the record, Boniface VIII pronounced excommunication on 'persons cutting up the bodies of the dead', but this was referring specifically to the cutting up of the corpses of Crusaders, in order to fit the cadaver conveniently into barrels for the journey back home. This was not a ban on autopsy, which had already been taking place long before Boniface VIII, and continue to take place during and after his reign ('It must be noted, however, that the pope did not forbid anatomical dissections but only the dissections performed with the purpose of preserving the bodies for distant burial', P Prioreschi, Determinants of the revival of dissection of the human body in the Middle Ages', Medical Hypotheses (2001) 56(2), 229–234).
  • The article on dissection also says 'In England, dissection remained entirely prohibited until the 16th century, when a series of royal edicts gave specific groups of physicians and surgeons some limited rights to dissect cadavers', but yet again, no reference is given.
There was no blanket ban on autopsy in Christian Europe, as there had been in pagan Rome. Here's a reliable source, Toby Huff, 'The Rise Of Modern Science' (2003), page 195:

'Current scholarship reveals that Europeans had considerable knowledge of human anatomy, not just that based on Galen and his animal dissections. For the Europeans had performed significant numbers of human dissections, especially postmortem autopsies during this era. The years 1200-1350 have been labeled the great period of hospital creation in Europe, and as Figure 7 reveals, this coincided with the establishment of medical faculties and medical training in universities.

Many of the autopsies were conducted to determine whether or not the deceased had died of natural causes or whether there had been foul play, poisoning, or physical assault. Indeed, very early in the thirteenth century, a religious official, namely, Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), ordered the postmortem autopsy of a person whose death was suspicious.

In 1286, two years before the death of Ibn al-Nafis, an Italian cleric by the name of Salimbene reported that, in response to the plague that had devastated several Italian cities, a physician had opened the bodies of plague victims, as well as those of some chickens. He hoped to determine what was happening to the internal organs of the deceased, both animals and humans.

Salimbene's remarks are so offhand as to suggest that this practice of postmortem autopsy had happened before. Likewise, in 1302, a scholar in Bologna died suddenly, raising the fear that he had been poisoned. A postmortem was conducted with the conclusion that no poisoning was evident, that a large amount of blood had congealed around the heart, presumably causing the death.'

From what I have read, claims of Christian Europe outlawing autopsy or dissection have been greatly exaggerated, and largely falsified. In fact, in the article by Prioreschi from which I quoted earlier, it is declared specifically that Christianity's emphasis on the body as a mere vessel for the soul was one of the primary contributing factors to the revival of dissection in the Middle Ages. --Taiwan boi (talk) 16:07, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Thank you, for that detailed and well-sourced reply. I did not in my comment mean to question the dissection ban in pagan Rome, I only wanted some clarification about the statement about Christian Europe in this article, as it seems to be contradicted by the section in the dissection article. You are clearly well versed in the literature on the subject so I can only urge you to add your knowledge to the dissection article, as I assume most other readers with only a cursory knowledge about this particular subject would be reading both articles. I had noticed the "dubious" tags in the dissection-article, but as I could not find any relevant discussion on the article talk pages about that topic, I assumed it to be the work of a hit-and-run tagger. Still the sentence I referred to in this article could do with a reference, and I think it would also help if it stated that Christian Europe unlike Pagan Rome did not forbid dissections and autopsies en-bloc (or another similar meaning term), as that would make the meaning of the sentence much more clear. --Saddhiyama (talk) 17:31, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

You're welcome, and thanks for your help. I wasn't aware of the inaccuracies in the article on dissection, and I'll try to find some time to address that. --Taiwan boi (talk) 04:17, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
I woul also like to thank User:Taiwan boi for the clarification, and I have nothing more to add about the different practices in "Pagan Rome" and "Christian Europe". I still disagree with the calling them just that, however - ancient Rome and medieval Europe seems more reasonable. After all, the Roman Empire didn't allow dissection when it became Christian Rome, as far as I understand, and the rules in those parts of medieval Europe that were Pagan are probably not known. Phizq (talk) 10:09, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

Link to humoral theory[edit]

In the section headed 'Work', the link to Hippocrates' humoral theories at the end of the first paragraph links to humour as in 'sense of humour', hilarity etc. Could someone please rectify this?

86.136.23.93 (talk) 01:07, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

I think it is important to understand what Galen meant by humors and temperaments. These are what we would nowadays think of as moods - see my post on the subject

Once we appreciate that humors and temperaments refer to mood, and the four basic moods of Action (sanguine) Stress (choleric) Depression (Melancholic) and Calm (Phlegmatic) and that Galenic medicine focussed on making people feel better rather than on changing their personality ;-), it becomes easier to understand how Galenic medicine fits in with modern medicine, and other more holistic systems of healing.

see http://matrixpsychology.blogspot.com/2009/09/sanguine-choleric-melancholic-and.html

and http://matrixpsychology.blogspot.com/2009/09/more-about-sanguine-phlegmatic-choleric.html

Dr Liz Miller liz@lizmiller.co.uk —Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.158.180.100 (talk) 20:50, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

Lead Section[edit]

I am a Galen scholar and historian of science. I have cleaned up the lead section to capture its meaning but I put in more correct information. What I put there now is basic history of science information. Cosans (talk) 05:10, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for that. I think it's important to note that the restrictions on Galen were not simply because of 'his time', but specifically because pagan Roman religious sensitivities forbade dissection and autopsy. This had a profound impact on Galen's work as we all know, and the relaxation of this law under Christian Rome contributed significantly to the later work on dissection and autopsy which enabled many of Galen's errors to be corrected. --Taiwan boi (talk) 06:45, 13 March 2009 (UTC)


Thanks for you thoughts. I am not sure on how religious we should call the sensitivities against dissection and vivisection. Von Staden has a really good article on this (1975"The Discovery of the Body", Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 65: 223-241). I think it would be better to say there were cultural traditions about what do do with human bodies...and dissecting them was not in those bounds. If you look at Antigone there are real emotional issues involved beyond her references to gods and godesses. I also think it is not correct to say "many of Galen's errors" were corrected. Galen is direct about the fact he is dissecting a monkey and not a human....so the fact that humans were different does not mean he was in error in his account of the monkey. Galen also constantly tells his reader to dissect for himself and to see if they can see other things in the body that are not in his text. He tells you often how he might have first seen some nerve or small muscle and says in effect "since I found this new muscle you too can find new structures that have not been noticed yet." I once heard the history of anatomy professor Jerome Bylble from Hopkins argue that Vesalius was simply doing that. And it seems to me from looking at Galen's text that Vesalius does. Cosans (talk) 18:10, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

The religious prohibitions on dissection are a matter of historical record. P Prioreschi, Determinants of the revival of dissection of the human body in the Middle Ages', Medical Hypotheses (2001) 56(2), 229–234), makes the point that the shift of religious view from pagan Roman to Christian was one of the significant contributing factors to the revival of dissection.
On the matter of Galen's mistakes, it is a fact that many of Galen's errors were corrected, where 'errors' in this context refers to his false beliefs about the human anatomy. No one is suggesting his understanding of ape anatomy was wrong. The fact is that his understanding of human anatomy was wrong, and it was wrong because he wasn't dissecting humans he was dissecting apes. --Taiwan boi (talk) 05:38, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
A few additional sources:
  • 'It is interesting to note that Roman law prevented Galen from the dissection of human cadavers which led to errors about human anatomy in his writings.', Benjamin Adams, B.S. and Jean Larson, 'Legislative History of the Animal Welfare Act' (September 2007)
  • '...Roman religion prohibited dissecting human corpses...', Carol Leth Stone, 'The Basics of Biology' (2004)
  • 'Such methods soon convinced him that Galenic anatomy had not been based on the dissection of the human body, which had been strictly forbidden by the Roman religion.', Encyclopedia Britannica, article on Vesalius
--Taiwan boi (talk) 06:21, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

Although Galen was prohibited to dissect human bodies by Roman law, does anyone know if he ever was able to see dead bodies?

Eudemus![edit]

Could anybody explain how Galen might have treated Eudemus of Rhodes, who died four and a half centuries before his birth? It is probably another Eudemus, but then precision is needed, and the link is certainly wrong! 88.172.163.21 (talk) 22:00, 5 July 2010 (UTC)

Oops. Thanks for catching that. There is a contemporary Eudemus mentioned in the article Eudemus (physician) but the Cambridge Companion to Galen confirms that the relevant Eudemus is a philosopher and not a physician, so I've left him unlinked for now.
Many thanks. –Syncategoremata (talk) 22:59, 5 July 2010 (UTC)

Output[edit]

This article claims: "So profuse was Galen's output that the surviving texts represent nearly half of all the extant literature from ancient Greece.[22][44]" This is patently false! (Aristotle's extent works alone, for example, rival Galen's in total length.) A major contemporary Galen scholar estimates that it might be as high as 10% of extent Greek literature up to 350 AD. (Links below; the source is far more reputable than the medical journals cited.) See, for example: p. 390, n 22 here (requires university access): http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.uchicago.edu/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/nlebk_105841_AN?sid=f3be728f-9855-4065-943d-b707fc267e5d@sessionmgr111&vid=1&format=EB As noted in the article, the rest of the information in the paragraph is contested and, frankly, sounds highly speculative (like wildly inaccurate remnants from the doxographical tradition). We might consider removing that (mis-)information until/if a reputable source can be found. 99.112.125.90 (talk) 14:02, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

Using science to describe what he did is bad history[edit]

Projecting contemporary understandings of terms like "science" back almost 2000 years is really bad history. In good histories, the word "science" is generally not applied to what people did before the 17th or 18th centuries because it's seriously misleading. Joechip123 (talk) 03:33, 13 August 2013 (UTC)