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Galen Disease: Delusions of Grandeur in an Authoritative Clinical Investigator

James A. Solomon, MD, PhD
Arch Dermatol. 2011;147(6):723. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.97.
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Most modern physicians believe that the concept that the practice of medicine should be based on experimental evidence (as opposed to anecdotes) is relatively new. Nevertheless, the 12th century physician/scientist/theologian Moses Maimonides1 in his textbook on medicine stressed the requirement for evidence-based practice of medicine.2

Maimonides paralleled his text to that of Galen, a first-century Roman physician.3 Despite the 11 centuries between them, Maimonides knew that Galen's publications on medicine remained authoritative. Maimonides agreed that Galen in his early years had relied on experiments to become an expert in anatomy, physiology, and therapeutics. Galen, he states, “reached such a level, he demanded visual proof for everything.” Maimonides praised “Galen, who was truly extremely wise, and who provided experimental evidence [to support his contentions], and even composed a book on [experimental] signs.” In fact, Galen went further and “repulsed Aristotle,” the Greek medical authority who had preceded him for centuries,4 for Aristotle's failure to perform such experiments. Over his lifetime and thereafter, Galen became esteemed and recognized as an authority of general medicine, equal to or greater than Aristotle.

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