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Niversity College Dundee and Sir W T Thiselton Dyer late director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew have very kindly helped me to identify several animals and plants mentioned by Galen I cannot conclude without expressing a word of gratitude to my former biological teachers Professors Patrick Geddes and J Arthur Thomson The experience reared on the foundation of their teaching has gone far to help me in interpreting the great medical biologist of Greece I should be glad to think that the present work might help however little to hasten the coming reunion between the “humanities” and modern biological science; their present separation I believe to be against the best interest of both A J B 22nd Stationary Hospital Aldershot March 1916. It s a most systematic and authoritative argument for his own take on scientific medicine in his day and make no wonder Marcus Aurelius wanted him as his personal doctor when off to fight the Germans and not much at Galen s stubbornly staying in Pergamum in preference

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On The Natural Faculties

The text used is with a few unimportant modifications that of Kühn Vol II as edited by Georg Helmreich; Teubner Leipzig 1893 The numbers of the pages of Kühn’s edition are printed at the side of the Greek text a parallel mark || in the line indicating the exact point of division between Kühn’s pages Words in the English text which are enclosed in suare brackets are supplementary or explanatory; practically all explanations however are relegated to the footnotes or introduction In the footnotes also attention is drawn to words which are of particular philological interest from the point of view of modern medicine I have made the translation directly from the Greek; where passages of special difficulty occurred I have been able to com. The fact is that those who are enslaved to their sects are not merely devoid of all sound knowledge but they will not even stop to learn This little book was appended to my Great Books of the Western World copy of the Hippocratic writings so I decided to go ahead and read it I m not sure I m happy with that decision Having by now read my fair share of ancient science I must confess that the experience is often stultifyingly dull and this little treatise was one of the worst I ve so far read Well who was Galen It s a name we don t often hear nowadays but Galen s influence was according to everything I ve heard enormous From his death to the Renaissance Galen was the major authority in medicine To me this is both depressing and terrifying because Galen does not make a good impression in this treatise In truth he often comes across as an oaf Galen begins with the Aristotelian premise that nature does nothing in vain and from there attempts to prove that the internal organs function because they have certain faculties He is defending the doctrine of the four humors which is found in both Aristotle and Hippocrates against his main nemesis Erasistratus who subscribes to the atomic theory of matter The treatise then alternates between fallacious reasoning mind numbing and inaccurate descriptions of the workings of internal organs and vituperation of all who disagree with him whom Galen dismisses as mindless sectarians simpletons or as lacking sufficient reverence for the wise ancients Meanwhile Galen s recriminations are hypocritical in the extreme For one he is himself a sectarian digging in his heels to defend the Hippocratic school What s his reasoning is often euivalent to that parodied by Moli re who has a uack explain how opium puts people to sleep by citing opium s soporific power Consider the followingIt has been made clear in the preceding discussion that nutrition occurs by an alteration or assimilation of that which nourishes to that which receives nourishment and that there exists in every part of the animal a faculty which in view of its activity we call in general terms alterative or specifically assimilative and nutritiveIn other words nutrition occurs because of the nutritive faculty In fact the contents of this book can be summarized like so Bodily organs attract and retain what is of their nature and expel what is foreign by means of their faculties There is a common stereotype about Roman culture which I hesitate to believe because it is a stereotype that the Romans were unoriginal and cultural parasites of the Greeks Surely that seems simplistic But it s hard to shake off as entirely false The Roman national epic the Aeneid was a self conscious attempt to emulate Homer Roman arts and architecture were manifestly influenced by the Greeks and the major Roman philosophical efforts were recapitulations of Greek thinkers Plotinus the Neo Platonist Lucretius the Epicurean Marcus Aurelius the Stoic Now we have Galen to add to the mix the dogmatic adherent of Hippocrates Well I don t want to push that too far because surely it is simplistic But one thing that I am absolutely certain of is that I wouldn t want Galen as my physician

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Pare my own version with Linacre’s Latin translation 1523 and the French rendering of Charles Daremberg 1854 56; in this respect I am also peculiarly fortunate in having had the help of Mr A W Pickard Cambridge of Balliol College Oxford who most kindly went through the Pg vi proofs and made many valuable suggestions from the point of view of exact scholarship My best thanks are due to the Editors for their courtesy and for the kindly interest they have taken in the work I have also gratefully to acknowledge the receipt of much assistance and encouragement from Sir William Osler Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford and from Dr J D Comrie first lecturer on the History of Medicine at Edinburgh University Professor D’Arcy W Thompson of U. Apart from whatever merit Galen s work has this is a terrible edition Amateurish cheap antiuated and typo ridden I ve heard this comes in the superb Loeb edition and if you re really interested in Galen no doubt that s the one to get Back to Galen himself The man made some progress but was still incredibly ignorant about the way the body worked And to jump from him to Harvey is to instantly realize how startlingly little medicine progressed between Galen s time and the 1600s AD Saddening but interesting and very much in contrast with the speedy march of new advances in the field in the last century


10 thoughts on “On The Natural Faculties

  1. says:

    The fact is that those who are enslaved to their sects are not merely devoid of all sound knowledge but they will not even stop to learn This little book was appended to my Great Books of the Western World copy

  2. says:

    As I proceeded through the pages about urine bile and digestion I had difficulty understanding why Galen was included in Britannica’s Great Books list Then I came to this passage near the end While however the statements which the Ancients made on these points were correct they yet omitted to defend their arguments with logical proofs; of course they never suspected that there could be sophists so shameless as to try to contradict obviou

  3. says:

    Galen's 200 AD view of medicine was based on that of his hero Hippocrates and was the standard view of medicine un

  4. says:

    Apart from whatever merit Galen's work has this is a terrible edition Amateurish cheap antiuated and typo ridden I've heard this comes in the superb Loeb edition and if you're really interested in Galen no doubt that's the one to get Back to Galen himself The man made some progress but was still incredibly ignor

  5. says:

    Light but not entertaining reading and hard to see how it would be practically useful Galen presents his view of what the organs do sometimes he is right sometimes he is wrong The ideas in this book seem useless to an ancient doctor It does not contain empirical observations like beans make you fat or fish gives a long life instead it discusses ideas like that urine comes from the urinary bladder points out that the gall blader is very dif

  6. says:

    A biological treatise mixed with some philosophical mattersIt's an advancement over previous works like Hippocrates even though he is well mentioned for considering nature a beauty and having certain facultiesTreats food specially honey relationship with health citing Erasistratus Hippocrates and othersHis talks on huma

  7. says:

    Help me out MDs Am I right in seeing Galen as a progression and perhaps even a corrective to Hippocrates Eristitatus and others? Since my background in life science is very limited I hesitate to be either critical or precis

  8. says:

    Galen is debatably less wrong than the earlier Greek physicians whom he so viciously decries but his crude anatomical theories have little bearing on modern medicine This edition is poorly edited and poorly laid out The Loeb Classics edition is much better but really why bother?

  9. says:

    It's a most systematic and authoritative argument for his own take on scientific medicine in his day and make no wonder Marcus Aurelius wanted him as his personal doctor when off to fight the Germans and not much at Galen's stubbornly staying

  10. says:

    Watching an ancient mind think especially on a topic like science helps clear away modern snobbishness