Around A.D. 145 in the Greek city of Pergamum, a father had a dream that his son Galen should become a physician.
Dreams were very important to the Greeks of the ancient world because they were thought to be inspired by the gods.
The father immediately enrolled his 16 year old son in Pergamum’s medical school.
The dream wound up having a huge effect on the history of science because this student became the greatest anatomist of the ancient world.
Galen traveled widely, gaining medical knowledge from different parts of the ancient world.
He also studied at the great school in Alexandria, before starting his career in Rome as a physician and researcher. He became known as the greatest doctor of the Roman Empire, even becoming the personal physician to the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius.
The Greeks had a strong medical tradition starting 600 years before with Hippocrates, who separated religion and superstition from medical practice.
Galen studied the great physicians of the centuries before him and added his own findings about anatomy to produce the most complete encyclopedia of medical knowledge of the ancient world.
It was so admired that it remained the final authority for the medical profession for over 1,400 years.
Galen’s writings on his medical research include 22 volumes of about 1,000 pages each.
The title page of one of Galen’s books shows scenes from the famous physician’s life.
This edition of Galen was printed in 1541.