History of Medicine


An Open Access Journal

Ancient medicine after Herophilus. Part 1

DOI: 10.17720/2409-5834.v3.1.2016.01x

D.A. Balalykin, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor,
Chairman at the Department of the History of Medicine, National History and Culturology
I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, The Ministry of Health
of the Russian Federation, Moscow (Russian Federation)

The article continues a series of publications on research results of a reconstruction of the history of ancient medicine as a protoscience phenomenon. Special aspects of ancient Greek rational medicine (from its inception to the work of Herophilus) were earlier identified. Herophilus’ work was experimental in its research methodology and fundamental in its influence on the constitution of a rational view of anatomy and physiology. It has been assessed in the light of the continuity of the natural-philosophical ideas of Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle.
This article outlines an approach to studying the development of ancient medicine from Herophilus to Galen. The fact that the history of ancient medicine from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD is virtually unexplored by Russian experts is recognized, while this period has been sufficiently studied in Western historiography. According to the author, Herophilus’ priority was the understanding of medicine as a theoretical and rational knowledge, based on the results of systematic anatomical studies and the use of experimental methods. However, as noted in this article, the explanatory potential of the natural-philosophical systems of the 3rd century BC was not sufficient, and attempts to create a universal medical theory led to certain errors. Apparently, this was one of the reasons why the empiricistsʼ medical school not only appeared, but soon became dominant in the post-Herophilus era. It was characterized by a negative attitude to the development of medical theory, to the extent of completely rejecting the need to study human anatomy.
The author of the article attempts to analyze particular concepts of medical theory and practice of some of the most wellknown post-Herophilus doctors. It is concluded that the most famous doctors prior to the 1st century BC belonged to two medical schools – empiricists and rationalist-Hippocratists. 

Keywords: history of medicine, ancient medicine, Herophilus, empiricist physicians, rationalist physicians, natural philosophy


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