), one of the most celebrated physicians of antiquity, who is best known on account of his skill in anatomy and physiology, but of whose personal history few details have been preserved.
He was a native of Chalcedon in Bithynia (Galen, Introd.
vol. xiv. p. (683 1
and was a contemporary of the physician Philotimus, the philosopher Diodorus Cronos, and of Ptolemy Soter, in the fourth and third centuries B. C., though the exact year both of his birth and series, and death is unknown.
He was a pupil of Praxagoras (Galen, De Meth. Med.
1.3. vol. x. p. 28), and a fellow-pupil of Philotimus (Galen, Ibid.
), and settled at Alexandria, which city, though so lately founded, was rapidly rising into eminence under the enlightened government of the first Ptolemy. Here he soon acquired a great reputation, and was one of the first founders of the medical school in that city, which afterwards eclipsed in celebrity all the others, so much so that in the fourth century after Christ the very fact of a physician having studied at alexandria was considered to be a sufficient guarantee of his ability. (Amm. Mare. 22.16.) Connected with his residence here an amusing anecdote is told by Sextus Empiricus (Pyrrhon. Instit.
2.22. 245, ed. Fabric.) of the practical method in which he convinced Diodorus Cronus of the possibility of motion.
That philosopher used to deny the existence of motion, and to support his assertion by the followingl dilemma :-- " If matter moves, it is either in the place where it is, or in the place where it is not; but it cannot move in the place where it is, and certainly not in the place where it is not; therefore it cannot move at all."
He happened, however, to dislocate his shoulder, and sent for Herophilus to replace it, who first began by proving by his own argument that is was quite impossible that any luxation could have taken place; upon which Diodorus begged him to leave such quibbling for the present, and to proceed at once to his surgical treatment.
He seems to have given his chief attention to anatomy, which he studied not merely from the dissection of animals, but also from that of human bodies, as is expressly asserted by Galen ( De Uieri Dissect.
100.5. vol. ii. p. 895).
He is even said to have carried his ardor in his anatomical pursuits so far as to have dissected criminals alive,--a well-known accusation, which it seems difficult entirely to disbelieve, though most of his biographers have tried to explain it away, or to throw discredit on it; for (not to lay much stress on the evident exaggeration of Tertullian, who says (De Anima,
100.10. p. 757) that he dissected as many as six hundred), it is mentioned by Celsus (De Medic.
i. praef. p. 6), quite as a well-known fact, and without the least suspicion as to its truth; added to which, it should be remembered, that such a proceeding would not be nearly so shocking to men's feelings two thousand years ago as it would be at present.
He was the author of several medical and anatomical works, of which nothing but the titles and a few fragments remain.
These have been collected by C. F. H. Marx, and published in a dissertation entitled " De Herophili Celeberrimi Medici Vita, Scriptis, atque in Medicina Meritis," 4to. Gotting. 1840.
Dr. Marx attributes to Herophilus a work Περὶ Αἰτιῶν
, De Causis;
but this is considered by a writer in the British and Foreign Medical Review
(vol. xv. p. 109) to be a mistake, as the treatise in question was probably written by one of his followers named Hegetor [HEGETOR].
Herophilus owes his principal celebrity (as has been already intimated) to his anatomical researches and discoveries, and several of the names which he gave to different parts of the human body remain in common use to this day; as the " Torcular Herophili," the " Calamus Scriptorius," and the " Duodenum."
He was intimately acquainted with the nervous system, and seems to have recognised the division of the nerves into those of sensation (αἰσθητικά
), and those of voluntary motion (προαιρετικά
), though he included the tendons and ligaments under the common term νεῦρον
, and called some at least of the nerves by the name of πόροι
He placed the seat of the soul(τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ἡγεμονικόν
) in the ventricles of the brain, and thus probably originated the idea, which was again brought forward, with some modification, towards the end of the last century, by Sömmering in his treatise Ueber das Organ der Seele,
§§ 26, 28, Königsberg, 1796, 4to.
The opinions of Herophilus on pathology dietetics, diagnosis, therapentics, materia medica, surgery, and midwifery ( as far as they can be collected form the few scattered extracts and allusions found in other authors), are collected by Dr. Marx, but need not be here particularly noticed. Perhaps the weakest point in Herophilus was his pharmaceutical practice, as he seems to have been one of the earliest physicians who administered large doses of hellebore and other drastic purgatives, and who (on the principle that compound diseases require compound medicines) began that strange system of heterogeneous mixtures, some of which have only lately been expelled from our own Pharmacopoeia, and which still keep their place on the Continent.
He is the first person who is known to have commented on any of the works of Hippocrates ( see Littré, Ocuxres d'Hippocrate,
vol. i. p. 83), and wrote an explanation of the words that had become obscure or obsolete.
School of Herophilus
He was the founder of a medical school which produced several eminent physicians, and in the time of Strabo was established at Men-Carus, near Laodiccia, in Phrygia. (Strabo, 12.3. p. 77, ed. Tauchn.) Of The physicians who belonged to this school perhaps the following were the most celebrated: Andreas, Apollonius Mus, Aristoxenus, Baccheius, Callianax, Callimachus, Demetrius, Dioscorides Phacas, Gaius or Caius (Cael. Aurel. De Morb. Acut.
3.14), Heracleides, Mantias, Speusippus, Zeno, and Zeuxis, several of whom wrote accounts of the sect and its opinions.
A further account of Herophilus may be found in Haller's Biblioth. Anatom.,
and Biblioth. Medic. Pract.;
Le Clerc's and Sprengel's Histories of Medicine; Dr. Marx's dissertation mentioned above, and a review of it (by the writer of the present article) in the British and Foreign Medical review,
vol. xv., from which two last works the preceding account has been abridged.