Claudius Galen of Pergamum
Claudius Galen was a second century physiologist, philosopher, and writer who is often considered the most important contributor to medicine following Hippocrates. Even though Galen is fairly well known, his fame does not compare to that of Hippocrates, so Galen's reputation and work are often underscored by Hippocrates' notoriety. While Galen's name is mentioned in most sources about ancient medicine, usually only a small portion of the piece is dedicated to his accomplishments; this coverage often does not do him justice. Of the sources specifically written about Galen, most are fairly old and tend to focus a lot on Galen's philosophies and how his ideas measure up to the different schools of thought that existed in his time rather than on his medical acclaim. Newer and sometimes less complete sources on Galen often neglect to discuss extensively the philosophical aspect of Galen's works. Nevertheless, both medical pursuits and philosophy were major aspects that shaped Galen's life, work, and results. Therefore, this examination of Galen will aim to illustrate how medical, philosophical, and other influences affected Galen's work and shaped his reputation in the history of medicine.
The influence of ancient medicine is still present in modern medicine. Even today, despite technological, methodological, and experimental advances in medicine, many of the basic foundations in medical teachings date back to ancient times. Hippocrates and Galen are two of the earliest and most frequently cited influences on the development of medicine. While Hippocrates is known mostly for his contributions to patients' rights and the moral and professional obligations of physicians, Galen is still respected for his contributions to anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology and for his incorporation of philosophy, logic, and experiment with medicine. Galen's impact on medicine was particularly profound because of his extensive and meticulous research and his relentless search for the truth.
Before Galen's Time
For hundreds of years before Galen's time, debates existed among physicians about which philosophy of medicine was most proper. By Galen's time, the Empiricists and the Rationalists were two of the major schools of philosophy influencing medicine and science. Empiricists believed that a competent doctor gained knowledge by experience not by creating or following medical theories. Others who believed that theories were necessary to supplement pure experience for adequate treatment of patients became known as Rationalists (Galen, 1985 xxii). In the fourth and fifth centuries BCE, both Aristotle and Plato rejected the idea that science could be adequately understood and practiced by experience alone and instead preferred the use of reason to provide medical knowledge. At this time, scholarly doctors who were extensively trained in their field studied and formulated rational theories about the human body...