Grasping the sill I pulled myself up to a sitting posture
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HIPPOCRATES AND GREEK MEDICINE These studies of the constitution of matter have carried us to the limits of the field of scientific imagination in antiquity; let us now turn sharply and consider a department of science in which theory joins hands with practicality. Let us witness the beginnings of scientific therapeutics. Medicine among the early Greeks, before the time of Hippocrates, was a crude mixture of religion, necromancy, and mysticism. Temples were erected to the god of medicine, aesculapius, and sick persons made their way, or were carried, to these temples, where they sought to gain the favor of the god by suitable offerings, and learn the way to regain their health through remedies or methods revealed to them in dreams by the god. When the patient had been thus cured, he placed a tablet in the temple describing his sickness, and telling by what method the god had cured him. He again made suitable offerings at the temple, which were sometimes in the form of gold or silver representations of the diseased organ--a gold or silver model of a heart, hand, foot, etc. Nevertheless, despite this belief in the supernatural, many drugs and healing lotions were employed, and the Greek physicians possessed considerable skill in dressing wounds and bandaging. But they did not depend upon these surgical dressings alone, using with them certain appropriate prayers and incantations, recited over the injured member at the time of applying the dressings. Even the very early Greeks had learned something of anatomy. The daily contact with wounds and broken bones must of necessity lead to a crude understanding of anatomy in general. The first Greek anatomist, however, who is recognized as such, is said to have been Alcmaeon. He is said to have made extensive dissections of the lower animals, and to have described many hitherto unknown structures, such as the optic nerve and the Eustachian canal--the small tube leading into the throat from the ear. He is credited with many unique explanations of natural phenomena, such as, for example, the explanation that "hearing is produced by the hollow bone behind the ear; for all hollow things are sonorous." He was a rationalist, and he taught that the brain is the organ of mind. The sources of our information about his work, however, are unreliable. Democedes, who lived in the sixth century B.C., is the first physician of whom we have any trustworthy history. We learn from Herodotus that he came from Croton to aegina, where, in recognition of his skill, he was appointed medical officer of the city. From aegina he was called to Athens at an increased salary, and later was in charge of medical affairs in several other Greek cities. He was finally called to Samos by the tyrant Polycrates, who reigned there from about 536 to 522 B.C. But on the death of Polycrates, who was murdered by the Persians, Democedes became a slave. His fame as a physician, however, had reached the ears of the Persian monarch, and shortly after his capture he was permitted to show his skill upon King Darius himself. The Persian monarch was suffering from a sprained ankle, which his Egyptian surgeons had been unable to cure. Democedes not only cured the injured member but used his influence in saving the lives of his Egyptian rivals, who had been condemned to death by the king. At another time he showed his skill by curing the queen, who was suffering from a chronic abscess of long standing. This so pleased the monarch that he offered him as a reward anything he might desire, except his liberty. But the costly gifts of Darius did not satisfy him so long as he remained a slave; and determined to secure his freedom at any cost, he volunteered to lead some Persian spies into his native country, promising to use his influence in converting some of the leading men of his nation to the Persian cause. Laden with the wealth that had been heaped upon him by Darius, he set forth upon his mission, but upon reaching his native city of Croton he threw off his mask, renounced his Persian mission, and became once more a free Greek. While the story of Democedes throws little light upon the medical practices of the time, it shows that paid city medical officers existed in Greece as early as the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. Even then there were different "schools" of medicine, whose disciples disagreed radically in their methods of treating diseases; and there were also specialists in certain diseases, quacks, and charlatans. Some physicians depended entirely upon external lotions for healing all disorders; others were "hydrotherapeutists" or "bath- physicians"; while there were a host of physicians who administered a great variety of herbs and drugs. There were also magicians who pretended to heal by sorcery, and great numbers of bone-setters, oculists, and dentists. Many of the wealthy physicians had hospitals, or clinics, where patients were operated upon and treated. They were not hospitals in our modern understanding of the term, but were more like dispensaries, where patients were treated temporarily, but were not allowed to remain for any length of time. Certain communities established and supported these dispensaries for the care of the poor. But anything approaching a rational system of medicine was not established, until Hippocrates of Cos, the "father of medicine," came upon the scene. In an age that produced Phidias, Lysias, Herodotus, Sophocles, and Pericles, it seems but natural that the medical art should find an exponent who would rise above superstitious dogmas and lay the foundation for a medical science. His rejection of the supernatural alone stamps the greatness of his genius. But, besides this, he introduced more detailed observation of diseases, and demonstrated the importance that attaches to prognosis. Hippocrates was born at Cos, about 460 B.C., but spent most of his life at Larissa, in Thessaly. He was educated as a physician by his father, and travelled extensively as an itinerant practitioner for several years. His travels in different climates and among many different people undoubtedly tended to sharpen his keen sense of observation. He was a practical physician as well as a theorist, and, withal, a clear and concise writer. "Life is short," he says, "opportunity fleeting, judgment difficult, treatment easy, but treatment after thought is proper and profitable." His knowledge of anatomy was necessarily very imperfect, and was gained largely from his predecessors, to whom he gave full credit. Dissections of the human body were forbidden him, and he was obliged to confine his experimental researches to operations on the lower animals. His knowledge of the structure and arrangement of the bones, however, was fairly accurate, but the anatomy of the softer tissues, as he conceived it, was a queer jumbling together of blood-vessels, muscles, and tendons. He does refer to "nerves," to be sure, but apparently the structures referred to are the tendons and ligaments, rather than the nerves themselves. He was better acquainted with the principal organs in the cavities of the body, and knew, for example, that the heart is divided into four cavities, two of which he supposed to contain blood, and the other two air. His most revolutionary step was his divorcing of the supernatural from the natural, and establishing the fact that disease is due to natural causes and should be treated accordingly. The effect of such an attitude can hardly be over-estimated. The establishment of such a theory was naturally followed by a close observation as to the course of diseases and the effects of treatment. To facilitate this, he introduced the custom of writing down his observations as he made them--the "clinical history" of the case. Such clinical records are in use all over the world to-day, and their importance is so obvious that it is almost incomprehensible that they should have fallen into disuse shortly after the time of Hippocrates, and not brought into general use again until almost two thousand years later. But scarcely less important than his recognition of disease as a natural phenomenon was the importance he attributed to prognosis. Prognosis, in the sense of prophecy, was common before the time of Hippocrates. But prognosis, as he practised it and as we understand it to-day, is prophecy based on careful observation of the course of diseases--something more than superstitious conjecture. Although Hippocratic medicine rested on the belief in natural causes, nevertheless, dogma and theory held an important place. The humoral theory of disease was an all-important one, and so fully was this theory accepted that it influenced the science of medicine all through succeeding centuries. According to this celebrated theory there are four humors in the body-- blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. When these humors are mixed in exact proportions they constitute health; but any deviations from these proportions produce disease. In treating diseases the aim of the physician was to discover which of these humors were out of proportion and to restore them to their natural equilibrium. It was in the methods employed in this restitution, rather than a disagreement about the humors themselves, that resulted in the various "schools" of medicine. In many ways the surgery of Hippocrates showed a better understanding of the structure of the organs than of their functions. Some of the surgical procedures as described by him are followed, with slight modifications, to-day. Many of his methods were entirely lost sight of until modern times, and one, the treatment of dislocation of the outer end of the collar-bone, was not revived until some time in the eighteenth century. Hippocrates, it seems, like modern physicians, sometimes suffered from the ingratitude of his patients. "The physician visits a patient suffering from fever or a wound, and prescribes for him," he says; "on the next day, if the patient feels worse the blame is laid upon the physician; if, on the other hand, he feels better, nature is extolled, and the physician reaps no praise." The essence of this has been repeated in rhyme and prose by writers in every age and country, but the "father of medicine" cautions physicians against allowing it to influence their attitude towards their profession.
VIII. POST-SOCRATIC SCIENCE AT ATHENS--PLATO, ARISTOTLE, AND THEOPHRASTUS Doubtless it has been noticed that our earlier scientists were as far removed as possible from the limitations of specialism. In point of fact, in this early day, knowledge had not been classified as it came to be later on. The philosopher was, as his name implied, a lover of knowledge, and he did not find it beyond the reach of his capacity to apply himself to all departments of the field of human investigation. It is nothing strange to discover that Anaximander and the Pythagoreans and Anaxagoras have propounded theories regarding the structure of the cosmos, the origin and development of animals and man, and the nature of matter itself. Nowadays, so enormously involved has become the mass of mere facts regarding each of these departments of knowledge that no one man has the temerity to attempt to master them all. But it was different in those days of beginnings. Then the methods of observation were still crude, and it was quite the custom for a thinker of forceful personality to find an eager following among disciples who never thought of putting his theories to the test of experiment. The great lesson that true science in the last resort depends upon observation and measurement, upon compass and balance, had not yet been learned, though here and there a thinker like Anaxagoras had gained an inkling of it. For the moment, indeed, there in Attica, which was now, thanks to that outburst of Periclean culture, the centre of the world's civilization, the trend of thought was to take quite another direction. The very year which saw the birth of Democritus at Abdera, and of Hippocrates, marked also the birth, at Athens, of another remarkable man, whose influence it would scarcely be possible to over-estimate. This man was Socrates. The main facts of his history are familiar to every one. It will be recalled that Socrates spent his entire life in Athens, mingling everywhere with the populace; haranguing, so the tradition goes, every one who would listen; inculcating moral lessons, and finally incurring the disapprobation of at least a voting majority of his fellow-citizens. He gathered about him a company of remarkable men with Plato at their head, but this could not save him from the disapprobation of the multitudes, at whose hands he suffered death, legally administered after a public trial. The facts at command as to certain customs of the Greeks at this period make it possible to raise a question as to whether the alleged "corruption of youth," with which Socrates was charged, may not have had a different implication from what posterity has preferred to ascribe to it. But this thought, almost shocking to the modern mind and seeming altogether sacrilegious to most students of Greek philosophy, need not here detain us; neither have we much concern in the present connection with any part of the teaching of the martyred philosopher. For the historian of metaphysics, Socrates marks an epoch, but for the historian of science he is a much less consequential figure. Similarly regarding Plato, the aristocratic Athenian who sat at the feet of Socrates, and through whose writings the teachings of the master found widest currency. Some students of philosophy find in Plato "the greatest thinker and writer of all time." The student of science must recognize in him a thinker whose point of view was essentially non-scientific; one who tended always to reason from the general to the particular rather than from the particular to the general. Plato's writings covered almost the entire field of thought, and his ideas were presented with such literary charm that successive generations of readers turned to them with unflagging interest, and gave them wide currency through copies that finally preserved them to our own time. Thus we are not obliged in his case, as we are in the case of every other Greek philosopher, to estimate his teachings largely from hearsay evidence. Plato himself speaks to us directly. It is true, the literary form which he always adopted, namely, the dialogue, does not give quite the same certainty as to when he is expressing his own opinions that a more direct narrative would have given; yet, in the main, there is little doubt as to the tenor of his own opinions--except, indeed, such doubt as always attaches to the philosophical reasoning of the abstract thinker. What is chiefly significant from our present standpoint is that the great ethical teacher had no significant message to give the world regarding the physical sciences. He apparently had no sharply defined opinions as to the mechanism of the universe; no clear conception as to the origin or development of organic beings; no tangible ideas as to the problems of physics; no favorite dreams as to the nature of matter. Virtually his back was turned on this entire field of thought. He was under the sway of those innate ideas which, as we have urged, were among the earliest inductions of science. But he never for a moment suspected such an origin for these ideas. He supposed his conceptions of being, his standards of ethics, to lie back of all experience; for him they were the most fundamental and most dependable of facts. He criticised Anaxagoras for having tended to deduce general laws from observation. As we moderns see it, such criticism is the highest possible praise. It is a criticism that marks the distinction between the scientist who is also a philosopher and the philosopher who has but a vague notion of physical science. Plato seemed, indeed, to realize the value of scientific investigation; he referred to the astronomical studies of the Egyptians and Chaldeans, and spoke hopefully of the results that might accrue were such studies to be taken up by that Greek mind which, as he justly conceived, had the power to vitalize and enrich all that it touched. But he told here of what he would have others do, not of what he himself thought of doing. His voice was prophetic, but it stimulated no worker of his own time. Plato himself had travelled widely. It is a familiar legend that he lived for years in Egypt, endeavoring there to penetrate the mysteries of Egyptian science. It is said even that the rudiments of geometry which he acquired there influenced all his later teachings. But be that as it may, the historian of science must recognize in the founder of the Academy a moral teacher and metaphysical dreamer and sociologist, but not, in the modern acceptance of the term, a scientist. Those wider phases of biological science which find their expression in metaphysics, in ethics, in political economy, lie without our present scope; and for the development of those subjects with which we are more directly concerned, Plato, like his master, has a negative significance.
ARISTOTLE (384-322 B.C.) When we pass to that third great Athenian teacher, Aristotle, the case is far different. Here was a man whose name was to be received as almost a synonym for Greek science for more than a thousand years after his death. All through the Middle Ages his writings were to be accepted as virtually the last word regarding the problems of nature. We shall see that his followers actually preferred his mandate to the testimony of their own senses. We shall see, further, that modern science progressed somewhat in proportion as it overthrew the Aristotelian dogmas. But the traditions of seventeen or eighteen centuries are not easily set aside, and it is perhaps not too much to say that the name of Aristotle stands, even in our own time, as vaguely representative in the popular mind of all that was highest and best in the science of antiquity. Yet, perhaps, it would not be going too far to assert that something like a reversal of this judgment would be nearer the truth. Aristotle did, indeed, bring together a great mass of facts regarding animals in his work on natural history, which, being preserved, has been deemed to entitle its author to be called the "father of zoology." But there is no reason to suppose that any considerable portion of this work contained matter that was novel, or recorded observations that were original with Aristotle; and the classifications there outlined are at best but a vague foreshadowing of the elaboration of the science. Such as it is, however, the natural history stands to the credit of the Stagirite. He must be credited, too, with a clear enunciation of one most important scientific doctrine--namely, the doctrine of the spherical figure of the earth. We have already seen that this theory originated with the Pythagorean philosophers out in Italy. We have seen, too, that the doctrine had not made its way in Attica in the time of Anaxagoras. But in the intervening century it had gained wide currency, else so essentially conservative a thinker as Aristotle would scarcely have accepted it. He did accept it, however, and gave the doctrine clearest and most precise expression. Here are his words:
"As to the figure of the earth it must necessarily be spherical.... If it were not so, the eclipses of the moon would not have such sections as they have. For in the configurations in the course of a month the deficient part takes all different shapes; it is straight, and concave, and convex; but in eclipses it always has the line of divisions convex; wherefore, since the moon is eclipsed in consequence of the interposition of the earth, the periphery of the earth must be the cause of this by having a spherical form. And again, from the appearance of the stars it is clear, not only that the earth is round, but that its size is not very large; for when we make a small removal to the south or the north, the circle of the horizon becomes palpably different, so that the stars overhead undergo a great change, and are not the same to those that travel in the north and to the south. For some stars are seen in Egypt or at Cyprus, but are not seen in the countries to the north of these; and the stars that in the north are visible while they make a complete circuit, there undergo a setting. So that from this it is manifest, not only that the form of the earth is round, but also that it is a part of a not very large sphere; for otherwise the difference would not be so obvious to persons making so small a change of place. Wherefore we may judge that those persons who connect the region in the neighborhood of the pillars of Hercules with that towards India, and who assert that in this way the sea is one, do not assert things very improbable. They confirm this conjecture moreover by the elephants, which are said to be of the same species towards each extreme; as if this circumstance was a consequence of the conjunction of the extremes. The mathematicians who try to calculate the measure of the circumference, make it amount to four hundred thousand stadia; whence we collect that the earth is not only spherical, but is not large compared with the magnitude of the other stars." But in giving full meed of praise to Aristotle for the promulgation of this doctrine of the sphericity of the earth, it must unfortunately be added that the conservative philosopher paused without taking one other important step. He could not accept, but, on the contrary, he expressly repudiated, the doctrine of the earth's motion. We have seen that this idea also was a part of the Pythagorean doctrine, and we shall have occasion to dwell more at length on this point in a succeeding chapter. It has even been contended by some critics that it was the adverse conviction of the Peripatetic philosopher which, more than any other single influence, tended to retard the progress of the true doctrine regarding the mechanism of the heavens. Aristotle accepted the sphericity of the earth, and that doctrine became a commonplace of scientific knowledge, and so continued throughout classical antiquity. But Aristotle rejected the doctrine of the earth's motion, and that doctrine, though promulgated actively by a few contemporaries and immediate successors of the Stagirite, was then doomed to sink out of view for more than a thousand years. If it be a correct assumption that the influence of Aristotle was, in a large measure, responsible for this result, then we shall perhaps not be far astray in assuming that the great founder of the Peripatetic school was, on the whole, more instrumental in retarding the progress of astronomical science that any other one man that ever lived. The field of science in which Aristotle was pre-eminently a pathfinder is zoology. His writings on natural history have largely been preserved, and they constitute by far the most important contribution to the subject that has come down to us from antiquity. They show us that Aristotle had gained possession of the widest range of facts regarding the animal kingdom, and, what is far more important, had attempted to classify these facts. In so doing he became the founder of systematic zoology. Aristotle's classification of the animal kingdom was known and studied throughout the Middle Ages, and, in fact, remained in vogue until superseded by that of Cuvier in the nineteenth century. It is not to be supposed that all the terms of Aristotle's classification originated with him. Some of the divisions are too patent to have escaped the observation of his predecessors. Thus, for example, the distinction between birds and fishes as separate classes of animals is so obvious that it must appeal to a child or to a savage. But the efforts of Aristotle extended, as we shall see, to less patent generalizations. At the very outset, his grand division of the animal kingdom into blood-bearing and bloodless animals implies a very broad and philosophical conception of the entire animal kingdom. The modern physiologist does not accept the classification, inasmuch as it is now known that colorless fluids perform the functions of blood for all the lower organisms. But the fact remains that Aristotle's grand divisions correspond to the grand divisions of the Lamarckian system--vertebrates and invertebrates-- which every one now accepts. Aristotle, as we have said, based his classification upon observation of the blood; Lamarck was guided by a study of the skeleton. The fact that such diverse points of view could direct the observer towards the same result gives, inferentially, a suggestive lesson in what the modern physiologist calls the homologies of parts of the organism. Aristotle divides his so-called blood-bearing animals into five classes: (1) Four-footed animals that bring forth their young alive; (2) birds; (3) egg-laying four- footed animals (including what modern naturalists call reptiles and amphibians); (4) whales and their allies; (5) fishes. This classification, as will be observed, is not so very far afield from the modern divisions into mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes. That Aristotle should have recognized the fundamental distinction between fishes and the fish- like whales, dolphins, and porpoises proves the far from superficial character of his studies. Aristotle knew that these animals breathe by means of lungs and that they produce living young. He recognized, therefore, their affinity with his first class of animals, even if he did not, like the modern naturalist, consider these affinities close enough to justify bringing the two types together into a single class. The bloodless animals were also divided by Aristotle into five classes--namely: (1) Cephalopoda (the octopus, cuttle-fish, etc.); (2) weak-shelled animals (crabs, etc.); (3) insects and their allies (including various forms, such as spiders and centipedes, which the modern classifier prefers to place by themselves); (4) hard-shelled animals (clams, oysters, snails, etc.); (5) a conglomerate group of marine forms, including star-fish, sea-urchins, and various anomalous forms that were regarded as linking the animal to the vegetable worlds. This classification of the lower forms of animal life continued in vogue until Cuvier substituted for it his famous grouping into articulates, mollusks, and radiates; which grouping in turn was in part superseded later in the nineteenth century. What Aristotle did for the animal kingdom his pupil, Theophrastus, did in some measure for the vegetable kingdom. Theophrastus, however, was much less a classifier than his master, and his work on botany, called The Natural History of Development, pays comparatively slight attention to theoretical questions. It deals largely with such practicalities as the making of charcoal, of pitch, and of resin, and the effects of various plants on the animal organism when taken as foods or as medicines. In this regard the work of Theophrastus, is more nearly akin to the natural history of the famous Roman compiler, Pliny. It remained, however, throughout antiquity as the most important work on its subject, and it entitles Theophrastus to be called the "father of botany." Theophrastus deals also with the mineral kingdom after much the same fashion, and here again his work is the most notable that was produced in antiquity.
IX. GREEK SCIENCE OF THE ALEXANDRIAN OR HELLENISTIC PERIOD We are entering now upon the most important scientific epoch of antiquity. When Aristotle and Theophrastus passed from the scene, Athens ceased to be in any sense the scientific centre of the world. That city still retained its reminiscent glory, and cannot be ignored in the history of culture, but no great scientific leader was ever again to be born or to take up his permanent abode within the confines of Greece proper. With almost cataclysmic suddenness, a new intellectual centre appeared on the south shore of the Mediterranean. This was the city of Alexandria, a city which Alexander the Great had founded during his brief visit to Egypt, and which became the capital of Ptolemy Soter when he chose Egypt as his portion of the dismembered empire of the great Macedonian. Ptolemy had been with his master in the East, and was with him in Babylonia when he died. He had therefore come personally in contact with Babylonian civilization, and we cannot doubt that this had a most important influence upon his life, and through him upon the new civilization of the West. In point of culture, Alexandria must be regarded as the successor of Babylon, scarcely less directly than of Greece. Following the Babylonian model, Ptolemy erected a great museum and began collecting a library. Before his death it was said that he had collected no fewer than two hundred thousand manuscripts. He had gathered also a company of great teachers and founded a school of science which, as has just been said, made Alexandria the culture-centre of the world. Athens in the day of her prime had known nothing quite like this. Such private citizens as Aristotle are known to have had libraries, but there were no great public collections of books in Athens, or in any other part of the Greek domain, until Ptolemy founded his famous library. As is well known, such libraries had existed in Babylonia for thousands of years. The character which the Ptolemaic epoch took on was no doubt due to Babylonian influence, but quite as much to the personal experience of Ptolemy himself as an explorer in the Far East. The marvellous conquering journey of Alexander had enormously widened the horizon of the Greek geographer, and stimulated the imagination of all ranks of the people, It was but natural, then, that geography and its parent science astronomy should occupy the attention of the best minds in this succeeding epoch. In point of fact, such a company of star-gazers and earth-measurers came upon the scene in this third century B.C. as had never before existed anywhere in the world. The whole trend of the time was towards mechanics. It was as if the greatest thinkers had squarely faced about from the attitude of the mystical philosophers of the preceding century, and had set themselves the task of solving all the mechanical riddles of the universe, They no longer troubled themselves about problems of "being" and "becoming"; they gave but little heed to metaphysical subtleties; they demanded that their thoughts should be gauged by objective realities. Hence there arose a succession of great geometers, and their conceptions were applied to the construction of new mechanical contrivances on the one hand, and to the elaboration of theories of sidereal mechanics on the other. The wonderful company of men who performed the feats that are about to be recorded did not all find their home in Alexandria, to be sure; but they all came more or less under the Alexandrian influence. We shall see that there are two other important centres; one out in Sicily, almost at the confines of the Greek territory in the west; the other in Asia Minor, notably on the island of Samos--the island which, it will be recalled, was at an earlier day the birthplace of Pythagoras. But whereas in the previous century colonists from the confines of the civilized world came to Athens, now all eyes turned towards Alexandria, and so improved were the facilities for communication that no doubt the discoveries of one coterie of workers were known to all the others much more quickly than had ever been possible before. We learn, for example, that the studies of Aristarchus of Samos were definitely known to Archimedes of Syracuse, out in Sicily. Indeed, as we shall see, it is through a chance reference preserved in one of the writings of Archimedes that one of the most important speculations of Aristarchus is made known to us. This illustrates sufficiently the intercommunication through which the thought of the Alexandrian epoch was brought into a single channel. We no longer, as in the day of the earlier schools of Greek philosophy, have isolated groups of thinkers. The scientific drama is now played out upon a single stage; and if we pass, as we shall in the present chapter, from Alexandria to Syracuse and from Syracuse to Samos, the shift of scenes does no violence to the dramatic unities. Notwithstanding the number of great workers who were not properly Alexandrians, none the less the epoch is with propriety termed Alexandrian. Not merely in the third century B.C., but throughout the lapse of at least four succeeding centuries, the city of Alexander and the Ptolemies continued to hold its place as the undisputed culture-centre of the world. During that period Rome rose to its pinnacle of glory and began to decline, without ever challenging the intellectual supremacy of the Egyptian city. We shall see, in a later chapter, that the Alexandrian influences were passed on to the Mohammedan conquerors, and every one is aware that when Alexandria was finally overthrown its place was taken by another Greek city, Byzantium or Constantinople. But that transfer did not occur until Alexandria had enjoyed a longer period of supremacy as an intellectual centre than had perhaps ever before been granted to any city, with the possible exception of Babylon.
EUCLID (ABOUT 300 B.C.) Our present concern is with that first wonderful development of scientific activity which began under the first Ptolemy, and which presents, in the course of the first century of Alexandrian influence, the most remarkable coterie of scientific workers and thinkers that antiquity produced. The earliest group of these new leaders in science had at its head a man whose name has been a household word ever since. This was Euclid, the father of systematic geometry. Tradition has preserved to us but little of the personality of this remarkable teacher; but, on the other hand, his most important work has come down to us in its entirety. The Elements of Geometry, with which the name of Euclid is associated in the mind of every school-boy, presented the chief propositions of its subject in so simple and logical a form that the work remained a textbook everywhere for more than two thousand years. Indeed it is only now beginning to be superseded. It is not twenty years since English mathematicians could deplore the fact that, despite certain rather obvious defects of the work of Euclid, no better textbook than this was available. Euclid's work, of course, gives expression to much knowledge that did not originate with him. We have already seen that several important propositions of geometry had been developed by Thales, and one by Pythagoras, and that the rudiments of the subject were at least as old as Egyptian civilization. Precisely how much Euclid added through his own investigations cannot be ascertained. It seems probable that he was a diffuser of knowledge rather than an originator, but as a great teacher his fame is secure. He is credited with an epigram which in itself might insure him perpetuity of fame: "There is no royal road to geometry," was his answer to Ptolemy when that ruler had questioned whether the Elements might not be simplified. Doubtless this, like most similar good sayings, is apocryphal; but whoever invented it has made the world his debtor.
HEROPHILUS AND ERASISTRATUS The catholicity of Ptolemy's tastes led him, naturally enough, to cultivate the biological no less than the physical sciences. In particular his influence permitted an epochal advance in the field of medicine. Two anatomists became famous through the investigations they were permitted to make under the patronage of the enlightened ruler. These earliest of really scientific investigators of the mechanism of the human body were named Herophilus and Erasistratus. These two anatomists gained their knowledge by the dissection of human bodies (theirs are the first records that we have of such practices), and King Ptolemy himself is said to have been present at some of these dissections. They were the first to discover that the nerve- trunks have their origin in the brain and spinal cord, and they are credited also with the discovery that these nerve-trunks are of two different kinds--one to convey motor, and the other sensory impulses. They discovered, described, and named the coverings of the brain. The name of Herophilus is still applied by anatomists, in honor of the discoverer, to one of the sinuses or large canals that convey the venous blood from the head. Herophilus also noticed and described four cavities or ventricles in the brain, and reached the conclusion that one of these ventricles was the seat of the soul--a belief shared until comparatively recent times by many physiologists. He made also a careful and fairly accurate study of the anatomy of the eye, a greatly improved the old operation for cataract. With the increased knowledge of anatomy came also corresponding advances in surgery, and many experimental operations are said to have been performed upon condemned criminals who were handed over to the surgeons by the Ptolemies. While many modern writers have attempted to discredit these assertions, it is not improbable that such operations were performed. In an age when human life was held so cheap, and among a people accustomed to torturing condemned prisoners for comparatively slight offences, it is not unlikely that the surgeons were allowed to inflict perhaps less painful tortures in the cause of science. Furthermore, we know that condemned criminals were sometimes handed over to the medical profession to be "operated upon and killed in whatever way they thought best" even as late as the sixteenth century. Tertullian probably exaggerates, however, when he puts the number of such victims in Alexandria at six hundred. Had Herophilus and Erasistratus been as happy in their deductions as to the functions of the organs as they were in their knowledge of anatomy, the science of medicine would have been placed upon a very high plane even in their time. Unfortunately, however, they not only drew erroneous inferences as to the functions of the organs, but also disagreed radically as to what functions certain organs performed, and how diseases should be treated, even when agreeing perfectly on the subject of anatomy itself. Their contribution to the knowledge of the scientific treatment of diseases holds no such place, therefore, as their anatomical investigations. Half a century after the time of Herophilus there appeared a Greek physician, Heraclides, whose reputation in the use of drugs far surpasses that of the anatomists of the Alexandrian school. His reputation has been handed down through the centuries as that of a physician, rather than a surgeon, although in his own time he was considered one of the great surgeons of the period. Heraclides belonged to the "Empiric" school, which rejected anatomy as useless, depending entirely on the use of drugs. He is thought to have been the first physician to point out the value of opium in certain painful diseases. His prescription of this drug for certain cases of "sleeplessness, spasm, cholera, and colic," shows that his use of it was not unlike that of the modern physician in certain cases; and his treatment of fevers, by keeping the patient's head cool and facilitating the secretions of the body, is still recognized as "good practice." He advocated a free use of liquids in quenching the fever patient's thirst--a recognized therapeutic measure to-day, but one that was widely condemned a century ago.
ARCHIMEDES OF SYRACUSE AND THE FOUNDATION OF MECHANICS We do not know just when Euclid died, but as he was at the height of his fame in the time of Ptolemy I., whose reign ended in the year 285 B.C., it is hardly probable that he was still living when a young man named Archimedes came to Alexandria to study. Archimedes was born in the Greek colony of Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, in the year 287 B.C. When he visited Alexandria he probably found Apollonius of Perga, the pupil of Euclid, at the head of the mathematical school there. Just how long Archimedes remained at Alexandria is not known. When he had satisfied his curiosity or completed his studies, he returned to Syracuse and spent his life there, chiefly under the patronage of King Hiero, who seems fully to have appreciated his abilities. Archimedes was primarily a mathematician. Left to his own devices, he would probably have devoted his entire time to the study of geometrical problems. But King Hiero had discovered that his protege had wonderful mechanical ingenuity, and he made good use of this discovery. Under stress of the king's urgings, the philosopher was led to invent a great variety of mechanical contrivances, some of them most curious ones. Antiquity credited him with the invention of more than forty machines, and it is these, rather than his purely mathematical discoveries, that gave his name popular vogue both among his contemporaries and with posterity. Every one has heard of the screw of Archimedes, through which the paradoxical effect was produced of making water seem to flow up hill. The best idea of this curious mechanism is obtained if one will take in hand an ordinary corkscrew, and imagine this instrument to be changed into a hollow tube, retaining precisely the same shape but increased to some feet in length and to a proportionate diameter. If one will hold the corkscrew in a slanting direction and turn it slowly to the right, supposing that the point dips up a portion of water each time it revolves, one can in imagination follow the flow of that portion of water from spiral to spiral, the water always running downward, of course, yet paradoxically being lifted higher and higher towards the base of the corkscrew, until finally it pours out (in the actual Archimedes' tube) at the top. There is another form of the screw in which a revolving spiral blade operates within a cylinder, but the principle is precisely the same. With either form water may be lifted, by the mere turning of the screw, to any desired height. The ingenious mechanism excited the wonder of the contemporaries of Archimedes, as well it might. More efficient devices have superseded it in modern times, but it still excites the admiration of all who examine it, and its effects seem as paradoxical as ever. Some other of the mechanisms of Archimedes have been made known to successive generations of readers through the pages of Polybius and Plutarch. These are the devices through which Archimedes aided King Hiero to ward off the attacks of the Roman general Marcellus, who in the course of the second Punic war laid siege to Syracuse. Plutarch, in his life of Marcellus, describes the Roman's attack and Archimedes' defence in much detail. Incidentally he tells us also how Archimedes came to make the devices that rendered the siege so famous: "Marcellus himself, with threescore galleys of five rowers at every bank, well armed and full of all sorts of artillery and fireworks, did assault by sea, and rowed hard to the wall, having made a great engine and device of battery, upon eight galleys chained together, to batter the wall: trusting in the great multitude of his engines of battery, and to all such other necessary provision as he had for wars, as also in his own reputation. But Archimedes made light account of all his devices, as indeed they were nothing comparable to the engines himself had invented. This inventive art to frame instruments and engines (which are called mechanical, or organical, so highly commended and esteemed of all sorts of people) was first set forth by Architas, and by Eudoxus: partly to beautify a little the science of geometry by this fineness, and partly to prove and confirm by material examples and sensible instruments, certain geometrical conclusions, where of a man cannot find out the conceivable demonstrations by enforced reasons and proofs. As that conclusion which instructeth one to search out two lines mean proportional, which cannot be proved by reason demonstrative, and yet notwithstanding is a principle and an accepted ground for many things which are contained in the art of portraiture. Both of them have fashioned it to the workmanship of certain instruments, called mesolabes or mesographs, which serve to find these mean lines proportional, by drawing certain curve lines, and overthwart and oblique sections. But after that Plato was offended with them, and maintained against them, that they did utterly corrupt and disgrace, the worthiness and excellence of geometry, making it to descend from things not comprehensible and without body, unto things sensible and material, and to bring it to a palpable substance, where the vile and base handiwork of man is to be employed: since that time, I say, handicraft, or the art of engines, came to be separated from geometry, and being long time despised by the philosophers, it came to be one of the warlike arts. "But Archimedes having told King Hiero, his kinsman and friend, that it was possible to remove as great a weight as he would, with as little strength as he listed to put to it: and boasting himself thus (as they report of him) and trusting to the force of his reasons, wherewith he proved this conclusion, that if there were another globe of earth, he was able to remove this of ours, and pass it over to the other: King Hiero wondering to hear him, required him to put his device in execution, and to make him see by experience, some great or heavy weight removed, by little force. So Archimedes caught hold with a book of one of the greatest carects, or hulks of the king (that to draw it to the shore out of the water required a marvellous number of people to go about it, and was hardly to be done so) and put a great number of men more into her, than her ordinary burden: and he himself sitting alone at his ease far off, without any straining at all, drawing the end of an engine with many wheels and pulleys, fair and softly with his hand, made it come as gently and smoothly to him, as it had floated in the sea. The king wondering to see the sight, and knowing by proof the greatness of his art; be prayed him to make him some engines, both to assault and defend, in all manner of sieges and assaults. So Archimedes made him many engines, but King Hiero never occupied any of them, because he reigned the most part of his time in peace without any wars. But this provision and munition of engines, served the Syracusan's turn marvellously at that time: and not only the provision of the engines ready made, but also the engineer and work-master himself, that had invented them. "Now the Syracusans, seeing themselves assaulted by the Romans, both by sea and by land, were marvellously perplexed, and could not tell what to say, they were so afraid: imagining it was impossible for them to withstand so great an army. But when Archimedes fell to handling his engines, and to set them at liberty, there flew in the air infinite kinds of shot, and marvellous great stones, with an incredible noise and force on the sudden, upon the footmen that came to assault the city by land, bearing down, and tearing in pieces all those which came against them, or in what place soever they lighted, no earthly body being able to resist the violence of so heavy a weight: so that all their ranks were marvellously disordered. And as for the galleys that gave assault by sea, some were sunk with long pieces of timber like unto the yards of ships, whereto they fasten their sails, which were suddenly blown over the walls with force of their engines into their galleys, and so sunk them by their over great weight."