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Institute for the Study of the Ancient World



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03/09/2017 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Medicine and the Humanities from Ancient to Modern

The Varied Fortunes of Galen

Claire Bubb

Since the emergence of Greek medicine as an independent field of study in the time of Hippocrates, there has been debate about its status vis-à-vis the humanities. In the second century A.D., the physician Galen took considerable pains to identify medicine as a foundational liberal art rather than as a manual or menial trade. The subsequent fate of his vast corpus—what was read when, how, and by whom—is illustrative of the push and pull of ancient medicine between science and the humanities up to the present day. Unlike the writing of his more literary contemporaries, Galen's corpus had an extensive, pragmatic role in professional training. He formed the cornerstone of medical education until the 17th century and his role there persisted even into the 19th century. It was only as his medical popularity waned that study of him among philologists began to gain momentum. This talk will investigate the issues at stake in Galen's time and then follow the fate of his influence through the ages into the modern debate on the role of humanities in medical education.
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