The Genius of Self-promotion


If Hippocrates helped medicine become a profession, and the Alexandrians showed that it can and should do research, then marketing taught her Galen-a man whose talent for PR was at least as much as his talent as a doctor.

Galen was born in the II century, now our era, in one of the Greek provinces of the Roman Empire in the family of a wealthy and educated architect. At the insistence of his father, the son began to study the art of medicine and traveled a lot, learning from different teachers. Galen had enough money to put off his practice and spend many years studying – making him one of the most educated doctors of his time. Only in thirty one year he finally arrived in Rome and began work doctor gladiators.

By dealing with a variety of wounds, he was able to gain some insight into human anatomy. However, deeper knowledge was not available: the autopsy of human bodies was not approved, and Galen had to dissect the corpses of animals. Galen later described human anatomy based on what he knew about the structure of animals. According to his works, students studied anatomy until the XVI century. When anatomical dissection again became the norm, doctors could not see how the books differ from the reality: for example, described by Galen thyroid cartilage clearly belonged to a pig, and the uterus cloven-hoofed animals. However, his influence by that time was so unquestioned that the differences explained by changes that supposedly had to endure the structure of man since antiquity.

Galen was a great admirer of Hippocrates, whom he called the greatest physician of the past and a role model. He saw the “Corpus” as a repository of true medical knowledge and spent a lot of time studying, interpreting and commenting on it. Galen has significantly enhanced and expanded humoral theory of disparate and contradictory ideas of “Hippokratia case” he was complete, internally consistent concept, which is described with inherent talent and categorically. He associated the four bodily fluids with four types of character – temperaments, four seasons, and four periods of human life. Blood corresponded to the active, sanguine temperament, in the spring and childhood; yellow bile – choleric irascible, summer and youth; black – silent of melancholy, of autumn and maturity, and phlegm – phlegmatic calm, winter and old age.

Although Galen was certainly talented and extremely hard-working, one of the Central figures in the history of medicine it made an incredible number of books written by him. Ten percent of all surviving ancient literature in Greek written by Galen. Judging only by the extant texts, for sixty years he wrote at least two or three pages daily. The number of his books is so great, and their topics are so varied, that he was forced to write two books about his own books. Galen brilliantly had the word and were incredibly convincing. At the same time he did not differ in modesty and condescension to colleagues and used any occasion to emphasize his superiority and rightness. It is his own words: “unlike many other doctors with an excellent reputation, I have never been mistaken about the treatment or prognosis. If you want to be famous… all you have to do is accept my legacy.”

Even while extolling Hippocrates, Galen worked for his authority – he presented himself as the best of the followers of the great authority of the past. He writes a lot about his medical successes and almost nothing about failures, often mentions famous people who were treated by him and with whom he communicated. Historians are inclined to believe that he did not hesitate to exaggerate his importance a little.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Galen’s works were for some time forgotten in Europe, but had a great influence on the development of Arabic medicine. When they reappeared in Europe in Arabic translations, the amount of writing, thoroughness and absolute confidence of the author in his rightness made a great impression on readers. For many centuries he became the one whose books teach medicine and whose ideas are not accepted to question. We owe it to Galen that humoral theory has become the main medical concept for centuries to come. With his usual modesty, Galen wrote “ ” as the Emperor Trajan, who paved roads and bridges for the Roman Empire in Italy, so I, only I paved the true path in medicine. We must admit that Hippocrates has already mapped out this path… he prepared it, but I made it passable.”

Many centuries later, evil tongues claimed that Galen’s path was the road to the cemetery.

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