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date: 31 October 2020

anatomy and physiologylocked

  • J. T. Vallance

Extract

The examination of the parts of the body, their forms, location, nature, function, and interrelations (to adapt the list provided by A. *Cornelius Celsus in the proem to book 1 of the De medicina)—whether through dissection (ἀνατομία, the title of several ancient medical works, and of a lost work by *Aristotle) or as part of more abstract speculation about natural causes (φυσιολογία)—was a concern not only for doctors. Physiology did not have the restricted range it has today; in antiquity it covered all kinds of speculative investigation into nature—in areas ranging from the search for the *soul and its physical location in the body to the explanation of organic processes in animals and plants. This means that ancient medical writers often paid close attention to the work of those whom we might regard today as having quite different concerns. Much early Greek cosmology, for example, was concerned (directly or indirectly) with problems surrounding the nature and origins of life, and the relations between the macroscopic structures of the universe and the microscopic structures of the body. Several Presocratic philosophers of nature advanced speculative models to explain physiological and pathological processes in terms of the transformation and balanced arrangement of one or more types of principal matter which they believed to constitute the universe as a whole. (Ideas of balance and imbalance, democracy and tyranny, symmetry and asymmetry can be seen shaping many different areas of Greek thought, cosmological, political, and physiological.) The influence, both positive and negative, of early cosmological models on Hippocratic physiological theories (see hippocrates (2)) was often profound—so much so that the author of the Hippocratic treatise On Ancient Medicine directed a strong attack on those doctors who borrowed unverifiable hypotheses from the philosophers (see elements; hypothesis, scientific).

Subjects

  • History of Science and Technology

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