The "Great Minds of Ancient Science and Math" series focuses on science history; this title explores the life and work of Roman physician Galen (A.D. 129217). Galen's family was wealthy enough to allow him years of study in Pergamum, Greece, and Alexandria, but the young man wanted to investigate the human body and effects of disease for himself. His many discoveries, some made through dissection of animals, led him to a rational system of treatment and many successes. (Patients included Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus.) Galen held public debates about medicine and wrote a large group of books that survived the fall of Rome and the vagaries of the Middle Ages. Some of his ideas (on subjects ranging from arteries and veins to dissection techniques and treatment based on patient information) turned out to be valid, while others have proved erroneous, but still interesting: one such theory involved the four temperaments based on bodily fluids and related to behavior, the seasons, and the four elements. Yount discusses the work of Vesalius in anatomy and William Harvey on circulation of the blood, both correcting some misconceptions of Galen's. Why is this dynamic doctor still relevant to us? A pioneer in anatomy and an articulate advocate of the scientific method, Galen also emphasized preventative medicine and the effects of stress on disease, thus helping to shape the medical practice of today. This attractive book includes many illustrations, some activities for readers to try, and a helpful six-page glossary. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
Gr 4-8–Many modern ideas about science and mathematics were influenced by, or born from, the theories of ancient thinkers. These biographies describe the individuals behind the original ideas, the times in which they lived, and their theories. Since little straight biographical information is available about many of the men–a fact emphasized in the texts–the books also use information about their backgrounds, including their education, gleaned from the writings of successors. The focus here is on scientific ideas, illuminating how these men came to their conclusions and how today's practices stem from them. For those libraries looking to add materials on ancient Greece that go beyond mythology, these biographies are solid choices, as they provide a good overview of the cultural and political landscape of the times, as well as pictures of their subjects.