Chapter

The Hour of the Dissectors

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520257658.003.0031
The Hour of the Dissectors

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The great empire of Alexander broke apart into four kingdoms after his death in 323 bc. This chapter examines only Alexandria, a center of Greek learning and knowledge. The change in the environment immediately made itself obvious such as there was a man named Herophilus of Chalcedon, to whom later ancient authors attributed a very active interest in anatomical studies. He came close to reality and forged further ahead than anyone before him. He conducted postmortem examinations, looking at the brain, eyes, digestive organs, and vessels. He observed the female and male sexual organs with interest. Another contemporary, Erasistratus of Julis on Chios, had a special interest in the nerves and vessels. He searched for the transport paths for pneuma throughout the organism. He compared living bodies and corpses that brought him quite close to reality. Alexandria rapidly became a true center of world trade, where much money, wealth, and power assembled.

Keywords: Greek learning; anatomical studies; postmortem examinations; transport paths; living bodies; corpses

Chapter.  1167 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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