Although many of Galen’s have been disproved like that fact that he thought that blood was made in the liver, he was accurate about many helpful observations in medicine which may explain why his ideas lasted for fifteen centuries after his death, this, and the fact that he was physician to several emperors with influence over the entire Roman Empire. The same Roman Empire that spread from Scotland to Asia, Iraq to Africa and formed 35 languages therefore spreading Galen’s work and ideas.

Galen stated that:

  • A disease can be diagnosed from the pulse of the patient a method used in the modern practice of Chinese medicine where different pulses like the zhenzang which leads to the prognosis of death.
  • A disease can be identified by a patients urine just as the Ancient Egyptians did by tasting the patients’ urine to taste the sweetness of urine with high glucose levels due to the kidneys malfunctioning to diagnose diabetes. He also said that urine forms in the kidneys and not the bladder by clamping the uteruses of apes and watching the kidneys swell as they filled with urine
  • He found that cataracts can be removed from a person’s eyes and even defined the disease; a change towards a whitish or sea-green colour that obstructs vision.
  • Before Galen it was thought that that the arteries were filled with air but Galen proved that they were full of blood and then identified dark red blood and bright red blood (oxygenated and deoxygenated). His dissections also led to the discovery of the heart’s four valves that allow blood to flow in one direction
  • By cutting spinal nerve roots he was able to identify cranial nerves and understand how muscles are controlled.

These discoveries disproved the past ideas that diseases were caused by the supernatural even more than Hippocrates because he dissected animals and gave insight into anatomy even though animals and humans are different in their anatomy. I feel that Galen’s accomplishments are usually overshadowed by the fact that he got a lot of things wrong that were later disproved and these inaccuracies were fiercely protected by the all-powerful church at the time but this doesn’t make the fact that his ideas and dissections opened up a world of anatomy and proof that had been pushed to the side by superstition prior even if the proof wasn’t completely accurate. Galen was a base that other individuals were then able to build upon.

Which physicians do you think revolutionized medicine? Let me know in the comments below!
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