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Ancient Rome’s most notorious doctor - Ramon Glazov


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In the 16th century, an anatomist named Andreas Vesalius made a shocking discovery: the most famous human anatomy texts in the world were wrong. While Vesalius knew he was right, announcing the errors would mean challenging Galen of Pergamon. Who was this towering figure? And why was he still revered and feared 1,300 years later? Ramon Glazov profiles the most renowned physician in medical history.

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Born in the 2nd century CE, Galen of Pergamon was an ambitious doctor who used animal autopsies and vivisections to make many breakthroughs in anatomy. A prolific author, he wrote a huge corpus of medical texts that stood unchallenged for over 1300 years, influencing doctors throughout Europe and the Middle East. But although Galen made his share of brilliant discoveries, his works also contained numerous mistakes that anatomists and physicians uncritically accepted until the Early Modern Era.

Listen to Melvyn Bragg discuss Galen with a panel of classicists on BBC Radio 4.

Read more about Galen and ancient medicine on this blog by classicist Caroline Petit.

Perhaps Galen’s most famous patient was Emperor Marcus Aurelius, considered the last of the “Five Good Emperors” who ruled the Roman Empire at the height of its power and influence.

The British Library’s website has images of mediaeval Galen manuscripts from its Harley Collection.

One of the most important surgeons to refute Galen’s anatomical theories was William Harvey (1578-1657), whose treatise, “On The Motion Of The Heart And Blood In Animals,” is accessible online.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Ramon Glazov
  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Animator Anton Bogaty
  • Storyboard Artist Anton Bogaty
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Eleanor Nelsen
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma

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