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April 1, 1974

Galenism: Rise and Decline of a Medical Philosophy

Author Affiliations

University of Wisconsin Madison

JAMA. 1974;228(1):103. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230260073042

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Galen, the most prolific medical author in antiquity, has until recently been virtually inaccessible to the English-reading public. Perhaps this reflects an earlier historiography that cast Galen in the role of an unattractive villain responsible for more than a millennium and a half of stagnation and lack of medical progress.

Some recent publications dealing with Galen and his ideas have presented the works of the ancient writer in the context of contemporary medical concerns, as if the prestige of modern medicine was necessary to make Galen's accomplishments seem more "relevant." Thus, Professor Temkin's latest book is especially welcome as a scholarly depiction of Galen's medical philosophy without those "presentist" distortions.

The author has adapted the four Messenger Lectures delivered at Cornell University in the fall of 1970 that were concerned with the origins and subsequent fate of Galen's medicophilosophical system. "Galenism" is defined as a coherent set of "principles, doctrines,