Herophilos

Herophilos

Overview
Herophilos sometimes Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

ized Herophilus (335-280 BC), was a Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 physician. Born in Chalcedon
Chalcedon
Chalcedon , sometimes transliterated as Chalkedon) was an ancient maritime town of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, almost directly opposite Byzantium, south of Scutari . It is now a district of the city of Istanbul named Kadıköy...

, he spent the majority of his life in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. He was the first scientist to systematically perform scientific dissections of human cadavers and is deemed to be the first anatomist. Herophilos recorded his findings in over nine works which are all lost. He was an early pioneer of the Scientific Method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. Together with Erasistratus
Erasistratus
Erasistratus was a Greek anatomist and royal physician under Seleucus I Nicator of Syria. Along with fellow physician Herophilus, he founded a school of anatomy in Alexandria, where they carried out anatomical research...

 he is regarded as a founder of the great medical school of Alexandria
Medicine in Ancient Greece
The first known Greek medical school opened in Cnidus in 700 BC. Alcmaeon, author of the first anatomical work, worked at this school, and it was here that the practice of observing patients was established. Ancient Greek medicine revolved around the theory of humours...

.

Herophilos was born in Chalcedon
Chalcedon
Chalcedon , sometimes transliterated as Chalkedon) was an ancient maritime town of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, almost directly opposite Byzantium, south of Scutari . It is now a district of the city of Istanbul named Kadıköy...

 in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 (now Kadiköy
Kadiköy
Kadıköy is a large, populous, and cosmopolitan district of İstanbul, Turkey on the Asian side of the Sea of Marmara, facing the historic city centre on the European side of the Bosporus...

, Turkey), in c.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Herophilos'
Start a new discussion about 'Herophilos'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Herophilos sometimes Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

ized Herophilus (335-280 BC), was a Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 physician. Born in Chalcedon
Chalcedon
Chalcedon , sometimes transliterated as Chalkedon) was an ancient maritime town of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, almost directly opposite Byzantium, south of Scutari . It is now a district of the city of Istanbul named Kadıköy...

, he spent the majority of his life in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. He was the first scientist to systematically perform scientific dissections of human cadavers and is deemed to be the first anatomist. Herophilos recorded his findings in over nine works which are all lost. He was an early pioneer of the Scientific Method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. Together with Erasistratus
Erasistratus
Erasistratus was a Greek anatomist and royal physician under Seleucus I Nicator of Syria. Along with fellow physician Herophilus, he founded a school of anatomy in Alexandria, where they carried out anatomical research...

 he is regarded as a founder of the great medical school of Alexandria
Medicine in Ancient Greece
The first known Greek medical school opened in Cnidus in 700 BC. Alcmaeon, author of the first anatomical work, worked at this school, and it was here that the practice of observing patients was established. Ancient Greek medicine revolved around the theory of humours...

.

Life


Herophilos was born in Chalcedon
Chalcedon
Chalcedon , sometimes transliterated as Chalkedon) was an ancient maritime town of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, almost directly opposite Byzantium, south of Scutari . It is now a district of the city of Istanbul named Kadıköy...

 in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 (now Kadiköy
Kadiköy
Kadıköy is a large, populous, and cosmopolitan district of İstanbul, Turkey on the Asian side of the Sea of Marmara, facing the historic city centre on the European side of the Bosporus...

, Turkey), in c. 335 BC. Not much is known about his early life other than that he moved to Alexandria at a fairly young age to begin his schooling.

As an adult Herophilos was a teacher, and an author of at least nine texts ranging from his book titled, On Pulses, which explored the flow of blood
Blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 from the heart
Heart
The heart is a myogenic muscular organ found in all animals with a circulatory system , that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions...

 through the arteries, to his book titled Midwifery, which discussed duration and phases of childbirth
Childbirth
Childbirth is the culmination of a human pregnancy or gestation period with the birth of one or more newborn infants from a woman's uterus...

. In Alexandria, he practiced dissections
Vivisection
Vivisection is defined as surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure...

, often publicly so that he could explain what he was doing to those who were fascinated. Erasistratus
Erasistratus
Erasistratus was a Greek anatomist and royal physician under Seleucus I Nicator of Syria. Along with fellow physician Herophilus, he founded a school of anatomy in Alexandria, where they carried out anatomical research...

 was his contemporary. Together, they worked at a medical school in Alexandria that is said to have drawn people from all over the ancient world due to Herophilos' fame.

His works are lost but were much quoted by Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

 in the second century AD. Herophilos was the first scientist to systematically perform scientific dissections of human cadavers. Dissections of human cadavers were banned in most places at the time, except for Alexandria. Celsus in 'De Medicina' and the church leader Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 state that he vivisected
Vivisection
Vivisection is defined as surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure...

 at least 600 live prisoners (although Tertullian lived several centuries after Herophilos and may have had reasons to discredit what he saw as heresy).

After the death of Herophilos c. 280 BC, his anatomical findings lived on in the works of other important physicians, notably Galen. Even so dissections were performed in the following centuries and medieval times only few insights were added. Dissecting with the purpose to gain knowledge about human anatomy started again in early modern times (Vesalius), more than 1600 years after Herophilos' death.

Medicine


Herophilus is thought to be one of the founders of the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. He had introduced the experimental method to medicine, for he considered it essential to found knowledge on empirical bases. For that he was criticized by Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

 for whom the experimental method contradicted rationality.

Conventional medicine of the time revolved around the theory of the four humors in which an imbalance between bile, black bile, phlegm, and blood led to sickness or disease. Veins were believed to be filled with blood and a mixture air and water. Through Herophilus dissections he was able to deduce that veins only carried blood. After studying the flow of blood, he was able to differentiate between arteries and veins. He noticed that as blood flowed through arteries, they pulsed or rhythmically throbbed. He worked out standards for measuring a pulse
Pulse
In medicine, one's pulse represents the tactile arterial palpation of the heartbeat by trained fingertips. The pulse may be palpated in any place that allows an artery to be compressed against a bone, such as at the neck , at the wrist , behind the knee , on the inside of the elbow , and near the...

 and could use these standards to aid him in diagnosing sicknesses or diseases. To measure this pulse, he made use of a water clock
Water clock
A water clock or clepsydra is any timepiece in which time is measured by the regulated flow of liquid into or out from a vessel where the amount is then measured.Water clocks, along with sundials, are likely to be the oldest time-measuring instruments, with the only exceptions...

.

His work on blood and its movements led him to study and analyze the brain
Brain
The brain is the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals—only a few primitive invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, sea squirts and starfishes do not have one. It is located in the head, usually close to primary sensory apparatus such as vision, hearing,...

. He proposed that the brain housed the intellect rather than the heart. He was the first person to differentiate between the cerebrum and the cerebellum
Cerebellum
The cerebellum is a region of the brain that plays an important role in motor control. It may also be involved in some cognitive functions such as attention and language, and in regulating fear and pleasure responses, but its movement-related functions are the most solidly established...

 and to place individual importance on each portion. He looked more in depth into the network of nerves located in the cranium. He described the optic nerve
Optic nerve
The optic nerve, also called cranial nerve 2, transmits visual information from the retina to the brain. Derived from the embryonic retinal ganglion cell, a diverticulum located in the diencephalon, the optic nerve doesn't regenerate after transection.-Anatomy:The optic nerve is the second of...

 and the oculomotor nerve
Oculomotor nerve
The oculomotor nerve is the 3rd of 12 paired cranial nerves. It enters the orbit via the superior orbital fissure and controls most of the eye's movements, including constriction of the pupil and maintaining an open eyelid by innervating the Levator palpebrae superiors muscle. The optic nerve is...

 for sight and eye movement. Through his dissection of the eye
Human eye
The human eye is an organ which reacts to light for several purposes. As a conscious sense organ, the eye allows vision. Rod and cone cells in the retina allow conscious light perception and vision including color differentiation and the perception of depth...

, he discovered the different sections and layers of the eye: the cornea
Cornea
The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. Together with the lens, the cornea refracts light, with the cornea accounting for approximately two-thirds of the eye's total optical power. In humans, the refractive power of the cornea is...

, the retina
Retina
The vertebrate retina is a light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye. The optics of the eye create an image of the visual world on the retina, which serves much the same function as the film in a camera. Light striking the retina initiates a cascade of chemical and electrical...

, the iris
Iris (anatomy)
The iris is a thin, circular structure in the eye, responsible for controlling the diameter and size of the pupils and thus the amount of light reaching the retina. "Eye color" is the color of the iris, which can be green, blue, or brown. In some cases it can be hazel , grey, violet, or even pink...

, and the choroid coat. Further study of the cranium led him to describe the calamus scriptorius which he believed was the seat of the human soul. Analysis of the nerves in the cranium allowed him to differentiate between nerves and blood vessels and to discover the differences between motor and sensory nerves. He believed that the sensory and motor nerves shot out from the brain and that the neural transmissions occurred by means of pneuma. Part of his belief system regarding the human body involved the pneuma, which he believed was a substance that flowed through the arteries along with the blood. Playing off of medical beliefs at the time, Herophilos stated that diseases occurred when an excess of one of the four humors impeded the pneuma from reaching the brain.

Herophilos also introduced many of the scientific terms used to this day to describe anatomical phenomena. He was among the first to introduce the notion of conventional terminology, as opposed to use of "natural names", using terms he created to describe the objects of study, naming them for the first time. A confluence of sinuses
Confluence of sinuses
The confluence of sinuses or torcular herophili is the connecting point of the superior sagittal sinus, straight sinus, and occipital sinus. It is found deep to the occipital protuberance of the skull. Blood arriving at this point then proceeds to drain into the left and right transverse sinuses...

 in the skull was originally named torcular Herophili after him. Torcular is a Latin translation of Herophilos' label, ληνός - lenos, 'wine vat' or 'wine press'. He also named the dua denum, which is part of the small intestine
Small intestine
The small intestine is the part of the gastrointestinal tract following the stomach and followed by the large intestine, and is where much of the digestion and absorption of food takes place. In invertebrates such as worms, the terms "gastrointestinal tract" and "large intestine" are often used to...

. Herophilos is credited with learning extensively about the physiology of the reproductive system. In his book entitled Midwifery, he discussed phases and duration of pregnancy as well as causes for difficult childbirth. The aim of this work was to help midwives and other doctors of the time more fully understand the process of procreation and pregnancy. He is credited with the discovery of the ovum
Ovum
An ovum is a haploid female reproductive cell or gamete. Both animals and embryophytes have ova. The term ovule is used for the young ovum of an animal, as well as the plant structure that carries the female gametophyte and egg cell and develops into a seed after fertilization...

. Other areas of his anatomical study include the liver
Liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

, pancreas
Pancreas
The pancreas is a gland organ in the digestive and endocrine system of vertebrates. It is both an endocrine gland producing several important hormones, including insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin, as well as a digestive organ, secreting pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes that assist...

, and the alimentary tract, as well as the salivary and genitalia.

Herophilos believed that exercise and a healthy diet were integral to the bodily health of an individual. Herophilos once said that "when health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied."

Sources

  • von Staden H. (ed. trans.) Herophilos: The Art of Medicine in Early Alexandria. Cambridge University Press, 1989 ISBN 0521236460, 9780521236461
  • Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawford, "Herophilos," The Oxford Classical Dictionary. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) 699.
  • "Herophilus", Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement Vol. 25 Thomson Gale. (Michigan: Gale).
  • von Staden H. (ed. trans.) Herophilus: The Art of Medicine in Early Alexandria. Cambridge University Press, 1989
  • Adrian Wills, "Herophilus, Erasistratus, and the birth of neuroscience," The Lancet. (November 13, 1999): 1719 Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale, 30 Nov. 2008.
  • "On the Localization of the Functions of the Brain with Special Reference to the Faculty of Language," Anthropological Review, Vol. 6, (Oct., 1868) 336.
  • Galen. On the natural faculties. Brock AJ (trans.) Heinemann, London 1916. pp xii, 233