Galen, On the Natural Faculties

LCL 71: viii-ix

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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 Osier, 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 University 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.


If the work of Hippocrates be taken as representing Hippocrates and Galen. the foundation upon which the edifice of historical Greek medicine was reared, then the work of Galen, who lived some six hundred years later, may be looked upon as the summit or apex of the same edifice. Galen’s merit is to have crystallised or brought to a focus all the best work of the Greek medical schools which had preceded his own time. It is essentially in the form of Galenism that Greek medicine was transmitted to after ages.

The ancient Greeks referred the origins of medicine The Beginnings of Medicine in Greece. to a god Asklepios (called in Latin Aesculapius), thereby testifying to their appreciation of the truly divine function of the healing art. The emblem of Aesculapius, familiar in medical symbolism at the present day, was a staff with a serpent coiled round it, the animal typifying wisdom in general, and more particularly the wisdom of the medicine-man, with his semi-miraculous powers over life and death.

Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.