Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/427

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403
SCIENCE AND RELIGION AT ALEXANDRIA

ledge was set up. Herophilus, the greatest of the Alexandrian anatomists, is said to have conducted vivisections upon condemned criminals.[1] Other teachers, in opposition to Herophilus, con-

  1. The question whether the vivisection of human beings, or, indeed, whether any vivisection at all occurred at Alexandria, is one of considerable importance because of the light it throws upon the moral and intellectual quality of the time. One of the editors of this book was inclined to throw doubt upon it, as a thing antipathetic to the Greek spirit. The writer has taken some pains to find out the facts of the case, and he has been so fortunate as to have the help of Dr. Singer, one of the greatest living authorities upon the history of medicine. There are statements made by Tertullian (De Anima, chap. xxv.), but he was a biased and untrustworthy witness. The conclusive passage is taken from Celsus, who wrote during the reign of Tiberius, three centuries after the great days of Alexandria. "If you are to have one witness," writes Dr. Singer, "you could hardly have a better. In my own mind I am satisfied with the evidence of Celsus, and I have asked Dr. E. T. Wittrington, our best authority on Greek medicine, and he also is satisfied."
    The following is a translation of the passage in Celsus, De Re Medica. One school says that "it is necessary to dissect the bodies of the dead, and to examine their viscera and intestines. Herophilus and Erasistratus adopted by far the best method, for they obtained criminals from prison by royal permission, and dissected them alive, and they examined, while they still breathed, the parts which Nature had concealed, noting their position, warmth (or possibly 'colour'—colorem instead of calorem), shape, size, relation, hardness, softness, smoothness, and feel; also the projections and depressions of each and how they fit into one another. For if there happen any inward pain, he who has not learned where the viscera and intestines are placed, cannot know where the pain is; nor can the diseased part be cured by one who does not know what part it is. Again, if the viscera of any one are exposed by a wound, he who is ignorant of the natural colour of that part in the healthy state cannot know whether it be sound or corrupted, and therefore cannot cure the corrupted part. Moreover remedies can be applied more appropriately externally when the position, shape, and size of the internal parts is known, and the same argument holds for all the other matters that we have mentioned. Nor is it a cruel act, as many would have it, to seek remedies for innocent mankind throughout the ages by torture of a few criminals."
    Against this view, says Celsus, the other school argues that "to cut open the abdomen and thorax of living men, and thus to turn that art which concerns itself with the health of mankind not only into an instrument of death (pestem—lit. 'a plague'), but (death) in its most horrible form, and this although some of the things that we seek thus barbarously can by no means be known, while others may be learned without cruelty. For the colour, smoothness, softness, hardness, and all their like are not the same when the body is cut open as when it is whole; and, moreover, even in bodies that have not been thus ravaged, these properties are often changed by fear, grief, want of food, or of digestion, fatigue and a thousand other lesser causes. It is thus more likely that the inner organs, which are more tender, and to which the light is a new experience, are changed by serious wounds and by mangling.
    "Further, nothing can be more foolish than to think that any things are the same in a live man as in a moribund one, or, rather, in one practically dead. It is indeed true that the abdomen, with which our argument is less concerned, can be