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Growth of Medicine: Greek and Roman Medicine, 1963 February

 Item — Box: 2

Scope and Contents

Audio recording of a lecture about ancient Greek and Roman medicine given by Northwestern University Medical School professor Leslie Arey, PhD in February 1963. This lecture was part of the series The Growth of Medicine presented annually at the medical school in the early 1960s.

Arey describes his topic as “the beginning of scientific medicine as we know it today.” He begins with ancient myth and religious belief and describes the Greek gods of medicine, Apollo and his son Asclepius; ritualistic practices and miraculous cures in healing temples called asclepeion, particularly at Epidaurus; and the early philosophers who studied natural phenomena. He then discusses Hippocrates, his transformation of medicine from religion and magic to a science, and the collection of writings known as the Hippocratic Corpus. He specifically describes the humoral theory of medicine that was followed for centuries, and the methods used by Hippocrates, including observation and diagnosis of disease, and interaction with the patient. He also briefly describes the influence and importance of Aristotle in many scientific fields.

Arey moves to the medicine practiced by Greeks in the city of Alexandria, particularly the work of Herophilos who is considered the father of anatomy, before moving on to ancient Roman medicine. Along with many other aspects of Greek culture, the medical practices of ancient Greece were adopted by Romans. Arey points out that Rome did not produce influential physicians or significant contributions to diagnosis and treatment because they did not value medicine as a separate scientific field as the Greeks had done. They did, however, show initiative in methods of public health and hygiene and accompanying infrastructure, and Arey states that the greatest contribution the Romans made to medicine was the institution of a hospital system. Significant figures in medicine at this time were Greek, particularly Galen, whose work Arey describes in detail.

Arey concludes by describing how the beliefs of these ancient physicians were held for hundreds of years, through the “Dark Ages” of the medieval era, until the Renaissance with the works of Vesalius and others.


  • 1963 February


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

No restrictions.


1 Reels : 53:20 minutes, mono, acetate base ; 1/4-in. open reel tape, on a 7 in. reel.

Language of Materials


Physical Location

This item is stored off-site, and is housed with the Medical Motion Pictures Collection, the Northwestern University Medical School Film Collection, and the Northwestern University Dental School Film Collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

See accession record 2018-18-263.

Processing Information

The digitization of this item was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This item was digitized in 2021 by The MediaPreserve. It was rehoused in an archival audio can on its original reel. The original housing has been retained and stored separately. This record indicates the physical location of both the tape itself and its original housing.

Library Details

Part of the Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center Repository

320 E. Superior Ave.
Chicago IL 60611-3008 US