Galen was a physician, writer and philosopher who became the most famous doctor in the Roman Empire and whose theories dominated European medicine for 1,500 years.
Claudius Galen was born in Pergamum (modern-day Turkey) of Greek parents. He studied in Greece, in Alexandria and other parts of Asia Minor and returned home to become chief physician to the gladiator school in Pergamum, gaining much experience of treating wounds.
In the early 160s AD, Galen moved to Rome to work and, with the exception of a brief return to Pergamum, spent the remainder of his life in the Roman capital. He became physician to the emperor Marcus Aurelius and would later serve in the same role to Aurelius's successors, Commodius and Septimius Severus.
Galen was the originator of the experimental method in medical investigation, and throughout his life dissected animals in his quest to understand how the body functions. Some of his anatomical and physiological observations were accurate - for example, he proved that urine was formed in the kidney (as opposed to the bladder which was common belief). His most important discovery was that arteries carry blood although he did not discover circulation.
Galen was prolific, with hundreds of treatises to his name. He compiled all significant Greek and Roman medical thought to date, and added his own discoveries and theories. His influence reigned supreme over medicine for 15 centuries after his death. It was not until the Renaissance that many of his theories were refuted.
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