Monday, August 3, 2020

Erasistratus: A pioneer of human physiology

Erasistratus (310-250 BC) was a disciple and collaborator of Herophilus. Erasistratus in addition to Herophilus of Chalcedon (335-280 BC) were pioneers of scientific anatomy, since deploying for the first time the method of human body dissection. Erasistratus the son of Kleombrotos was born in Island of Ceos, Greece approximately in 310 BC. His father and brother were physicians and his mother was the sister of a physician.

He studied medicine first in Athens, under Metrodorus and Theophrastus. Theophrastus was a preferred disciple of Aristotle so he had contact with this school and also knew about the philosophy of Democritus.

Erasistratus belonged in the scientific Alexandrian mileu and worked at the Herophilean Medical School in Egypt during the Hellenistic period.

Erasistratus was the first to describe the nerves as anatomical structures originating from the substance of the human brain. He and Herophilus suggested that there are two kind of nerves:
a) the sensory nerves and the
b) motor nerves and that the nerves “that make voluntary motion” originate from the cerebrum and the spinal marrow.

Erasistratus was credited with the first description of cardiac rhythm, after healing Nicator, son of King Seleucus I, by measuring his heart palpitations so he is deemed by some to be the father of physiology.

Erasistratus was the first physician who recognized the heart’s activity as a “pump” contracting perpetually, due to its “intrinsic force”. The heart’s construction and activity may be compared with the ingenious mechanism known as the Ctesibius pump. That pump was invented by Ctesibius of Alexandria in approximately 250 BC.

Herophilus with Erasistratus, helped introduce the discipline of anatomic dissection. It is quite reasonable that Erasistratus is considered as a great anatomist and a master of experimental physiology. Unfortunately, though, the studies of Erasistratus have been lost entirely and only a few details of his marvelous work may be recovered from the writings of Galen.
Erasistratus: A pioneer of human physiology
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