Thursday, March 2, 2017

Alexandria Medical School

Following the conquests of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) and the formation of new kingdoms by his successors, the center of Greek learning and medicine shifted from Athens and the Greek Islands to Alexandria in Egypt.

A famous medical school was established in old Alexandria during the third century BC. The Alexandria medical school introduced the notion that the level of understanding was dependent upon the detail of the observation.

The medical school was dominated by the ‘empirical’ outlook represented by Serapion of Alexandria (220 BC).

Anatomy was particularly advanced due to the possibility of dissecting the human body. Among the doctors attracted to work at Alexandria two were outstanding - Herophilus of Chalcedon and Erasistratus of Ceos.

Herophilus of Chalcedon
Herophilus, the Elder, moved to Alexandria after initial training under Praxagoras. His greatest contributions to medical research were largely in anatomy and he conducted important investigations, based at times on human dissection, into the brain and nervous system, the vascular system, the liver, the eye and the reproductive organs.

Many graduates of this medical school traveled and practiced throughout the Mediterranean basin. Galen (131-210 AD), born of Greek parents in the region that is now Turkey, was influenced by the teachings of Alexandria and Greek schools of thought. He later moved to Rome where he developed a considerable following, Galen wrote over five hundred medical treatises of which over one hundred have survived into modern times.

The medical school of Alexandria was still active until late in the 3rd century AD. However, it slipped slowly into oblivion after the fire of 389 AD, which also devastated its famous library.
Alexandria Medical School
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