DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE

GALEN...philosopher, physician, discoverer of blood and the cranial nerves!

This Greek's genius is more certain than his dates. He was born about 129 AD and lived until about 210 AD. During this considerable life span, Galen managed to perform studies that would long influence medicine. He is still known among other things for his discovery of blood in human arteries and for his dissection of the human cranial nerves, the nerves that supply key areas of the head, face, and upper chest.

The son of Nicon, a well-to-do architect and builder in Pergamum (Asia Minor), Galen had all the world open to him. He first studied philosophy, one of the traditional fields for a boy of his background. Nicon then had a dream in which Asclepius, the god of healing, told him to permit his son to study medicine.

Galen began his medical studies in Pergamum at the age of 16-17. In search of medical knowledge, he then roamed about much of the eastern Mediterranean studying medicine in various cities including Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey) and Corinth (Greece). He completed his studies at the famous medical school in Alexandria (Egypt).

Galen returned to Pergamum and at age 28 was appointed physician to the school of gladiators, a post he occupied for four years and that some say made him the first sports medicine specialist.

After that, a career in Rome was in the cards. There he went at age 32 and became a famous and influential physician, taking on cases that no one else could handle. The consultant's consultant, so to speak. He accompanied the Roman legions of Marcus Aurelius on their campaigns, and served as the personal physician to several emperors.

Galen described what he saw (not always the practice of the day). He identified the majority (seven of the twelve) of the cranial nerves. Each nerve is customarily accorded a Roman numeral. The full complement of the dozen cranial nerves, for those interested, is as follows: