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  • In the middle of the 16th century,

  • a talented young anatomist named Andreas Vesalius made a shocking discovery:

  • the most famous human anatomy texts in the world were wrong.

  • They not only failed to account for many details of the human body,

  • they also described the organs of apes and other mammals.

  • While Vesalius knew he was right,

  • announcing these errors would mean challenging Galen of Pergamon

  • the most renowned physician in medical history.

  • But who was this towering figure?

  • And why did doctors working more than 1,300 years later so revere and fear him?

  • Born in 129 CE,

  • Galen left home as a teen to scour the Mediterranean for medical wisdom.

  • He returned home a gifted surgeon with a passion for anatomy

  • and a penchant for showmanship.

  • He gleefully entered public anatomy contests,

  • eager to show up his fellow physicians.

  • In one demonstration,

  • he caused a pig to lose its voice by tying off one of its nerves.

  • In another, he disemboweled a monkey and challenged his colleagues to repair it.

  • When they couldn't, he did.

  • These grizzly feats won him a position as surgeon to the city's gladiators.

  • Eventually, he would leave the arena to become the personal physician

  • to four Roman Emperors.

  • While his peers debated symptoms and their origins,

  • Galen obsessively studied anatomy.

  • He was convinced that each organ had a specific function.

  • Since the Roman government largely prohibited working with human cadavers,

  • Galen conducted countless dissections of animals instead.

  • Even with this constraint,

  • his exhaustive investigations yielded some remarkably accurate conclusions.

  • One of Galen's most important contributions

  • was the insight that the brain, not the heart, controlled the body.

  • He confirmed this theory by opening the cranium of a living cow.

  • By applying pressure to different parts of the brain,

  • he could link various regions to specific functions.

  • Other experiments allowed him to distinguish sensory from motor nerves,

  • establish that urine was made in the kidneys,

  • and deduce that respiration was controlled by muscles and nerves.

  • But these wild experiments also produced extraordinary misconceptions.

  • Galen never realized that blood cycles continuously throughout the body.

  • Instead, he believed the liver constantly produces an endless supply of blood,

  • which gets entirely depleted on its one-way trip to the organs.

  • Galen is also credited with solidifying the popular theory of the Four Humours.

  • Introduced by Hippocrates centuries earlier,

  • this misguided hypothesis attributed most medical problems

  • to an imbalance in four bodily fluids called humours.

  • To correct the balance of these fluids, doctors employed dangerous treatments

  • like bloodletting and purging.

  • Informed by his poor understanding of the circulatory system,

  • Galen was a strong proponent of these treatments,

  • despite their sometimes lethal consequences.

  • Unfortunately, Galen's ego drove him to believe that

  • all his discoveries were of the utmost importance.

  • He penned treatises on everything from anatomy to nutrition to bedside manner,

  • meticulously cataloguing his writings to ensure their preservation.

  • Over the next 13 centuries,

  • Galen's prolific collection dominated all other schools of medical thought.

  • His texts became the standard works taught to new generations of doctors,

  • who in turn, wrote new essays extolling Galen's ideas.

  • Even doctors who actually dissected human cadavers

  • would bafflingly repeat Galen's mistakes,

  • despite seeing clear evidence to the contrary.

  • Meanwhile, the few practitioners bold enough to offer conflicting opinions

  • were either ignored or ridiculed.

  • For 1,300 years, Galen's legacy remained untouchable

  • until renaissance anatomist Vesalius spoke out against him.

  • As a prominent scientist and lecturer,

  • his authority influenced many young doctors of his time.

  • But even then, it took another hundred years

  • for an accurate description of blood flow to emerge,

  • and two hundred more for the theory of the Four Humours to fade.

  • Hopefully, today we can reap the benefits of Galen's experiments

  • without attributing equal credence to his less accurate ideas.

  • But perhaps just as valuable

  • is the reminder that science is an ever-evolving process,

  • which should always place evidence above ego.

In the middle of the 16th century,


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古代ローマで最も悪名高い医師、ラモン・グラゾフ (Ancient Rome's most notorious doctor - Ramon Glazov)

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    詹士緯 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日