Anatomy And Physiology During The Hellenistic Period

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Anatomy is to physiology, as geography is to history; it describes the theatre of events. Medical culture that emphasized the study of anatomy through human vivisection peaked in Alexandria in the 3rd century BC, with Herophilus and Erasistratus- the two primary anatomists of the 3rd century- spearheading this movement. Alexandria was the ideal place to study anatomy and physiology during the Hellenistic period since the research was not tied down by civil laws, taboos, or moralism that prevailed on the Greek mainland. Although the practice of human vivisection was decreed by the priesthood throughout the rest of Egypt and Athens, it was not so in this well-insulated center of learning.
Herophilus and Erasistratus, owing to their freedom to perform experiments and autopsies on living human cadavers, made phenomenal anatomical discoveries that significantly advanced the understanding of the human body. Herophilus developed the theory of the diagnostic value of the pulse and produced an elaborate classification of the different types of pulse according to criteria such as speed, rhythm, intensity, and evenness. He established that the brain was the center of the nervous system, not the heart. His work on the eye, stated to be accurate even in modern medicine, revealed the existence of the optic nerve, the vitreous humor, and retina. Erasistratus emphasized the role of mechanical processes in digestion, elaborately describing the movement and breakdown of food as it passed

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