Erasistratus

, a physician of great reputation among the ancients, is supposed to have been born at Julis, in the island of Cea or Ceos. He was the most distinguished pupil of Chrysippiis, the Cnidian physician, and had attained a high character in his profession in the fourth, century B. C. His fame acquired him the notice and esteem of Seleucus Nicenor, king of Syria, at whose court he is said to have discovered by feeling the pulse of Antiochus Soter that he was in love with his mother-in-law Stratonice. His character, however, is founded upon more solid ground. He may be considered as the father of anatomicarcience, at least conjointly with Herophilus. | It seems to be clearly established, that, before the time of these physicians, no one had dared to dissect human bodies; anatomical ‘examinations had been confined exclusively to the bodies of brutes. The Ptolemies, especially Soter and Philadelphia, being desirous that the arts should be cultivated, and having surmounted the prejudices of the age, granted the bodies of malefactors to the physicians for dissection, of which opportunity Erasistratus and Heropliilus availed themselves largely, and made several important discoveries. To what extent these discoveries were carried, it is not easy to ascertain but they were the first who dissected the human brain accurately according to the fragments preserved by Galen, Erasistratus described the brain minutely, and inferred that the brain was the common sensorium, or source of all the vital actions and sensations, which were effected throAigh the medium of the nerves. He also examined minutely the structure of the heart and of the great vessels, and was the first to point oat the valvular apparatus, and its peculiar form in each of the cavities of that viscus. His physiology, in general, was not, however, very profound, and his pathology necessarily imperfect; although he attempted to explain the causes of diseases from his knowledge of the structure of the body. The hypothesis by which he attempted to explain the origin of inflammation, resembled, in its leading feature, that modern supposition, which, sanctioned by the name of Boerhaave, was generally received in the medical world fora long series of years. His practice, like that of his master Chrysippus, was extremely simple. He did not employ blood-letting, nor purgatives; considering that plethora might be reduced more safely and naturally by fasting, or abstinence in diet, especially when aided by exetcise. He advised his patients, therefore, to use sucli articles of diet as contained little nutriment, as melons, cucumbers, and vegetables in general. He was exceedingly averse from the employment of compound medicines, and especially of the mixture of mineral, vegetable, and animal substances; and he exclaimed against the use of the antidotes of the physicians of his day, in which simplicity was altogether shunned. From the fragments of his writings to be found in Galen and Ciclius Aurelianus, it would appear, that Erasistratus wrote an accurate treatise on the dropsy, in which he disapproves of the operation of tapping; and that be had Jct’t other books on the | following subjects:—viz. on the diseases of the abdomen, on the preservation of health, on wholesome things, on fevers, and wounds, on habit, on palsy, and on gout.— Having lived to extreme old age, and suffering severely from the pains of an ulcer in the foot, Erasistratus is said to have terminated his existence by swallowing the juice of cicuta, or hemlock. 1

1

Rees’s Cyclopædia,—Haller, &c.