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Medicine, Historiography of

(2,043 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
Nutton, Vivian (London) [German version] A. Arabic Medical Historiography (CT) The historiography of ancient medicine goes back at least to Late Antiquity, when a 'History of the Physicians' is said to have been written by John Philoponus (6th cent.). Material from this work was drawn upon by Ishaq ibn Hunayn (d. 910/911), for his own 'History' ( Ta'rikh al-atibba), which is largely concerned with chronology [11]. Ishaq's example was followed by a variety of writers in Arabic, some, like the bookseller Ibn an-Nadim (fl. 987), producing largely lists of…

Medical ethics

(1,348 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] A. Introduction Medical ethics can be defined as the attitude of those schooled in the art of healing towards those whom they want to heal. How this appears in detail, depends on the healer's social group and standing and also the society in which he or she works. Furthermore, healers and those seeking healing may well have completely divergent views on medical ethics. It is possible to regulate for any desired attitude in the sense of the earlier definition by laws or professional …


(198 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] (Νουμισιανός; Noumisianós), anatomist and teacher of medicine in the 2nd cent. AD. A pupil of Quintus, he wrote many works on anatomy in Greek, but these were hoarded by his son Heracleianus and were eventully destroyed by fire (Galen, Administrationes anatomicae 14,1). Although Galen praises his promotion of anatomy, he attributes no discovery to him. Like other Alexandrians, N. commented upon Hippocrates (Galen, In Hippocratis Epidemiarum librum II, commentum 4: CMG V 10,1, 345-3…

Humoral Theory

(1,080 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[English version] The doctrine that the human body was made up of four humours, blood, phlegm, bile and black bile, and that health consisted in their being in balance, was accepted as the creation of Hippocrates well before the 2nd cent. AD. Galen's authority, buttressed by his logical and rhetorical skills, ensured that it became for centuries the dominant theory in Western medicine and in its oriental siblings. It was expounded in short (often pseudonymous) tracts like the ps.-Galenic Perì chymôn [16] or the Epistula Yppocratis de quattuor humoribus [1] , as well as in large com…

Arabic medicine

(1,884 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
Nutton, Vivian (London) [German version] A. Origins (CT) By AD 500, Greek medicine had become largely Galenic Galenism. Alternative medical theories no longer flourished, and even pragmatists like Alexander of Tralles did not reject Galenic ideas entirely. In Alexandria, and elsewhere in the Byzantine world that followed Alexandrian traditions, e.g. Ravenna, there was a teaching syllabus of Galen, the so-called 16 books - Summaria Alexandrinorum, and of Hippocrates that was commented upon by lecturers who expected of their audience also a grasp of Aristoteli…

Chrysermus of Alexandria

(135 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] (IDélos 1525). C. lived in about 150-120 BC; administrative official, ‘relative of king Ptolemy’, exegete (i.e. head of the civil service in Alexandria), director of the museum and ἐπὶ τῶν ἰατρῶν, a title that is often understood to mean the person responsible for all Egyptian doctors, which in turn led to the conclusion that there was a state organization of doctors. Kudlien is of the opinion that the title refers to the person responsible for the person in charge of the ‘tax on …


(130 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] Physician and anatomist from Alexandria, active c. AD 152, the son of the anatomist and teacher  Numisianus. He compiled an extract of his father's works (Gal. De musculorum dissectione 18 B, 926, 935 K.), demonstrating his own considerable knowledge (Gal. Admin. anat. 16,1). He had a conversation with  Galen, when the latter arrived in Alexandria in c. AD 151, and Galen initially followed his anatomical lectures with benevolence (CMG V,9,1, p. 70). However, when Galen later requested to see the works by H.'s late father, their relatio…


(726 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] A. History The Empiricists are a Greek school of physicians founded in about 250 BC by Philinus of Cos, a pupil of  Herophilus (Ps.-Galen Introductio; Gal. 14,683). According to Celsus (De med. pr. 10) it was founded somewhat later by Serapion of Alexandria. According to some doxographers the founder was Acron of Acragas (about 430 BC; fr. 5-7 Deichgräber). It is mentioned in the medical doxographies as one of the leading movements in Greek medicine even in the time of Isidorus of S…

Definitiones medicae

(237 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] The use of definitiones (‘discussions’) was extensive in medical teaching in the Greek as well as the Roman world (Gal. 1,306 K.; 19,346-7 K.). The most substantial surviving work of this genre is the Definitiones medicae ascribed to Galen (19,346-462 K.), the authenticity of which was doubted even in late antiquity (schol. in Orib. Syn, CMG 6,2,1, 250,29). Wellmann [1. 66] was of the opinion that their author lived towards the end of the 1st cent. AD, and was a member of the Pneumatic school. Although the work con…


(148 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] (Οὐλιάδαι; Ouliádai). Family connected with medicine and healing cults in Velia [1] in southern Italy. The name derives from lios (Οὔλιος;  Str. 14,1,6-8), one of the numerous epithets of Apollo (B. 4), and refers to his power both to harm and to heal (cf. Asclepius/Asclepiadae). The first verifiable member of this family was Parmenides. Statues and inscriptions in Velia, which were created primarily c. AD 20, represent members of the family, bearing the names Ulis or Uliades, as physicians and as φώλαρχοι/ phṓlarchoi; this probably suggests a cultic communit…


(339 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] The two Greek terms μήτρα/ mḗtra and ὑστέρα/ hystéra are both of disputed etymology (Soran. Gynaecia 1,6) and are often used in the plural (the belief in its many chambers derives from animal anatomy). Hippocratic authors ( Corpus Hippocraticum ) shared the idea of the uterus as a jar moving up and down a tube in the body ( Vulva ) and closing in on itself during pregnancy. They were of the view that the uterus can, like a living creature, be attracted or repelled by pleasant or unpleasant smells, and that it held no fix…


(88 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] Greek doctor and philosopher, teacher of  Galen, lived about AD 150 in Asia Minor (Gal. 19,58, CMG V 10,2,2, 287). A long-standing student of  Quintus (Gal. 18A, 575) and follower of  Hippocrates, he interpreted at least some of their teachings in a Stoic sense, e.g., from the field of psychology, in which he followed the Stoic Simias (Gal. 19,58; 18b, 654]. The Hippocratic commentary, which is ascribed to him in the Galen edition by Kühn at Gal. 16,484, is a Renaissance forgery. Nutton, Vivian (London)

Anonymus Parisinus

(350 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] Paris, BN, suppl. gr. 636, contains excerpts from a doxological work about acute and chronic diseases. C. Daremberg first discovered its significance for the history of medicine in his 1851 edition of Oribasius, p. XL, and collated at least two other MSS, without ever producing an edition. Following a hint by G. Costomiris, R. Fuchs took over the editio princeps in 1894 on the basis of two Paris MSS [1] but caused confusion by separating the doxographic part from the therapeutic part. Fuchs did not edit the section on acute diseases unt…


(548 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] (σφυγμός/ sphygmós, Latin pulsus). Although a pounding pulse was long recognized as an indication of illness, it seems to have been Aristotle [6] (Hist. an. 521a; De respiratione 479b) who was the first to connect the phenomenon with the heart [1]. His assertion that the pulse was a normal, constant presence in all blood vessels was disproved by Praxagoras, who was able to show that only arteries had a pulse. His view that arteries contained only pneûma and functioned independent of the heart was in turn questioned by his pupil Herophil…


(110 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] (Καλλιάναξ; Kalliánax). Doctor, adherent of  Herophilus [1] and member of his ‘house’, which possibly refers to the fact that he worked in the mid 3rd cent. BC [1].  Bacchius [1] in his memoir on the early followers of Herophilus (Galen in Hippocratis Epidemiarum 6 comment. 4,10 = CMG V 10,2,2,203), mentions that C. quoted Homer and the Greek tragic writers if his patients told him that they were afraid of dying. He gave them to understand by this that only the immortals could esca…

Acron [of Acragas]

(131 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] (Ἄκρων; Ákrōn) [of Acragas] Son of a doctor of the same name (Diog. Laert. 8,65), older contemporary of Hippocrates. He was supposed to have rid Athens of the pest by lighting big fires in 430 BC (Plut. De Is. et Os. 80 [cf. 1]). The  Empiricists (Ps.-Gal. 14,638) considered A. as founder of their school and as such he entered the doxographic tradition [2]. It is possible that he participated in the debates regarding the epistemological value of sensory perception (he was familiar …

Euryphon of Cnidus

(339 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] Greek physician, mid 5th cent. BC. The story recounted in Sor. Vita Hipp. 5, that E. cured Perdiccas II of Macedonia of an illness caused by unrequited love, arose comparatively late and is rather fantastical. According to Galen (17a,886), he provided the most important contributions to the so-called ‘Cnidian Sentences’, which have survived only in fragments [1. 65-66; 2. 14-26]. In the opinion of some ancient scholars some of his works, especially those dealing with dietetics, were taken up into the Hippocratic Corpus (Gal. 6,473; 7,960; 16,3). E. regarded disea…

Summaria Alexandrinorum

(296 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] In Late Antiquity in Alexandria [1] writings by Galenus and to a lesser extent by Hippocrates [6] were assembled into a medical compendium. Known as the '16 Books of Galen', it covers the basic areas of medicine  (including anatomy, physiology and therapeutics). According to Arab sources [1], a number of teachers ( Iatrosophistḗs ) in Alexandria are supposed to have written a series of summaries or abridgements of the books contained in this compendium, which were then collected under the title SA and translated into Arabic and perhaps also into Hebrew [2]. In…


(127 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] (Φιλάγριος; Philágrios). Doctor from Epirus, fl. 3rd-4th cents. AD; he practised in Thessalonica and was the author of more than 70 books: treatises on dietetics, gout, dropsy and rabies as well as a commentary on Hippocrates [1]. He is often cited by later authors, especially in Arabic, for his treatment of diseases of the liver and spleen. Doctrinally, he often follows Galen, but pays particular attention to pneuma (Pneumatists) as the co-ordinating force in organisms. His name appears often in garbled form as Filaretus (e.g. frr. 131-133: Rhazes, Continens, V…


(175 words)

Author(s): Nutton, Vivian (London)
[German version] An eye disease characterized by exudation, covering a variety of specific diseases like trachoma and conjunctivitis. A dry variety of lippitudo, xerophthalmía, in which the purulent eyes become stuck shut over night is also described (Celsus, De medicina 6,6,29). Celsus [7] (ibid. 6,6,2) reports a large number of ointments and other agents against lippitudo, an extremely common condition; this is confirmed by many ‘oculists' stamps’ for eye ointments ( Kollyrion) with the inscriptions ‘against lippitudo’ and by the large number of manufacturers of such …
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