Ancient World (about 3000BC-476AD)
During the 14th century, Claudius Galen was the acting physician for the Roman Gladiators and the Roman Court. He provided evidence that science has played a huge role throughout society over time. This was done through his belief that the body and soul as are a unit as well as his extensive pharmacological knowledge, which is continually used in modern medicine. By learning and encountering human organ placement through open Roman wounds and his extensive anatomical research and knowledge on the physiology of the brain, Galen produced some of the most anatomically accurate scientific findings in Ancient society. Galen began scientific breakthroughs in Ancient society by discovering the basis of human anatomy throughout the invention of the vivisection, his practice as a physician, and the placing and discovery of organ locations throughout the human body.
One of Galen’s most successful procedures, the vivisection, created a whole new field of medical possibilities. Vivisection is “the cutting of or operation on a living animal ” (Vivisection), or could also be described as “the practice of subjecting living animals to cutting operations, especially in order to advance physiological and pathological knowledge” (Conner, 2017). Vivisection was so well known because it lead to many world renown discoveries and treatments. Vivisection could be described as “the practice of subjecting living animals to cutting operations, especially in order to advance physiological and pathological knowledge.” Galen discovered that having too much yellow bile in the body could result in a harsh fever. This was believed to be treated by drinking a lot of cool liquid and eating cold foods. Vivisection also lead to the realization of spinal cord importance and how it controls movement. Slicing the spinal cord during a vivisection resulted in no movement from the specimen, causing Galen’s discovery on the true role of the spinal cord and nerves within the body. Vivisection also resulted in discovering that blood moved in the body. Galen then learned how to take a pulse and what role a person’s pulse played in relation to their blood flow and overall condition (Claudius Galen (c.AD 129-216), n.d.).
Vivisection, which is often confused with dissection, is differentiated through its use as a learning tool. “Dissections were performed in theater settings with large number of students as the audience. Human cadavers were highly desired…” causing many legal and ethical concerns (Ducceschi, 2009). Ultimately, vivisection was an earlier, less publicized and desired form of dissection. Galen performed numerous animal vivisections, he claimed to have performed a vivisection procedure almost every day of his career as a physician (Ducceschi, 2009). These common vivisection occurrences aided in his enhanced surgical skills, especially for a physician during ancient times, as well as his education about and placement of human organs in the body. By using countless animals, such as pigs, dogs, and macaques, Galen was able to specify, understand, and describe human body functions for those in the early Ancient period (Ducceschi, 2009).
Through the use of vivisections and ultimately newly discovered knowledge of human organs, Galen demonstrated his findings artistically on paper. His renown anatomical dra-
wings “aim[ed] to illustrate the body in all its natural splendor” (Dunn, 2003). It is said about his drawings that “not only are body and muscles depicted in the most realistic way, also bone structure, skeleton, and skin” are as well (Dunn, 2003). Galen’s drawings physically represented his anatomical knowledge on the study of animals, especially those of the Barbary ape and the pig. These anatomical drawings changed the field of science through “discoveries on the neuromuscular system under the control of the brain, on respiration, speech, and on the structure and function of the urinary apparatus [which] were particularly outstanding” (Dunn, 2003).
Connecting Galen’s Anatomical Science & Technology to Society
Overall, Galen’s work was so well known because of his numerous discoveries. Galen first provided the natural theory of disease. This was evidence of anatomical progress because it took a different point of view in explaining cause and cure of illness besides the supernatural ideas. As a result, this evidence lead to the adaption of theory of the four humors and created the theory of opposites. The theory of opposites helped in the progression of medicine as it kept challenging old ideas and encouraging people to look for different solutions and explanations within the medical world. Galen pioneered new approaches to anatomy and showed the importance of the brain as a super computer for the human body system (Rocca, 2003).
Galen scientifically changed the face of future medicine by bringing vivisection into medical procedures. Animal and human vivisections evolved into vivisection/dissection combinations currently known as surgery in modern day. Evidence of this is found in the quote: “In the early 1900s, the dissection of animals became more common in biology classes. Frog dissection was established in college level courses and eventually taught in high schools” (Ducceschi, 2009). Since the early 1910’s, society has been adapting this form of science in order to educate all citizens on animal and human body systems. It is said that “Between 1910 and 1920, dead frogs became commercially available for use in education, and by the 1920’s, for dissection became a routine activity in many high schools” (Ducceschi, 2009). For almost a century, vivisection and Galen’s anatomical discovery had been implemented in education for those between 14-23 years old. As of 1988, “it is estimated that animal [vivisection] occurred in 75-80% of pre-college level biology classes” (Ducceschi, 2009).As of 1988, “it is estimated that animal [vivisection] occurred in 75-80% of pre-college level biology classes.”
Galen’s anatomical drawings have also been transformed into the body diagrams we know today. This form of technology, because it provides a service on location of organs and operations of the human body system, is used at many training schools for doctors. Galen’s own drawings were used to train medical professionals until the end of the Renaissance in 1600 A.D. (Claudius Galen (c.AD 129-216), n.d.).
In the end, it can be said that Galen discovered the first natural theory of disease, the vivisection, the theory of opposites, adapted the theory of four humors and illustrated organ locations through his anatomical drawings. He is remembered today for “his pioneering…to understand both health and disease in the human body” (Barton, 2016). He performed numerous vivisections while claiming he “dissected animals almost everyday of his career…to learn more about the human body” (Claudius Galen (c.AD 129-216), n.d.). His anatomical drawings lead to “discoveries of the neuromuscular system under the control of the brain, on respiration, speech, and on the structure and function of the urinary apparatus”, which was particularly outstanding (Rocca, 2003). So Galen did, in fact, begin scientific breakthroughs in Ancient society through his discoveries of human anatomy through the invention of the vivisection, his practice as a physician, and the placing and discovery of organ locations throughout the human body.
- True or False: Galen was a very successful physician who published an anatomical drawing of a pregnant woman in the 14th century, depicting early beliefs about organ placement.
- Multiple Choice: What surgical procedure did Galen invent and how did it change the face of medicine from that point forward?
A) Needling; allowed for experimentation on dead animals in order to locate their organs for future research and anatomical drawings
B) Vivisection; allowed invasive operations to be performed on live animals for experimentation and research
C) Needling; allowed invasive operations to be performed on live animals for experimentation and research
D) Vivisection; allowed for experimentation on dead animals in order to locate their organs for future research and anatomical drawings
- Short Response: Name two of Galen’s anatomical contributions to ancient society and explain how that finding directly impacted either science or technology.
Barton, M. (2016). Claudius Galen. Retrieved from http://www.pastmedicalhistory.co.uk/claudis-galen/
Claudius Galen (c.AD 129-216). Retrieved from https://www.toothillschool.co.uk/data/files/dept/hist/AncientCivilisationsRoman/claudiusgalen.pdf
Conner, A. (2017, August 3). Galen’s analogy: Animal experimentation and anatomy in the second century C.E. Anthos, 8(1), 118-145. http://dx.doi.org/10.15760/anthos.2017.118
Dunn, P.M. (2003). Galen (AD 129-200) of Pergamun: Anatomist and experimental physiologist. Archives of Disease in Childhood-Fetal and Neonatal Edition, 88(5). http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/fn.88.5.F441
Ducceschi, L., & Green, N. (2009). Dying to Learn: Exposing the supply and use of dogs and cats in higher education. AnimalLearn. Retrieved from http://www.dyingtolearn.org/dyingToLearn.pdf
Rocca, J. (2003). Galen on the brain : Anatomical knowledge and physiological speculation in the second century ad. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
“Vivisection.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vivisection. Accessed 22 May. 2020.
“Pseudo-Galen, Claudius, 131-201 (MS.290)” by Wellcome Collection is licensed under CC BY 4.0