Physician (335 BC – 255 BC)

He was born in Chalcedon. He flourished in Alexandria, where he quickly became leader of the Medical School of Alexandria. Herophilus became well known for being one of the first anatomists, an excellent physiologist and pathologist. He was also a skilled pharmacologist, obstetrician, gynecologist and surgeon.

Herophilus was an important promoter of anatomy. He recognized the brain as the “seat of intellect” and emotions. He studied the ventricles of the brain, named the meninges of the brain and traced the junction where the sinuses of the dura matter, the toughest of the meninges, meet. It is named torcular Herophili in his honour to this day. He was the first to distinguish the nerves between motor and sensory and identify their function to conduct impulses. He is credited with describing the optic, oculomotor, the motor branch of the trigeminal, facial, vestibulocochlear and hypoglossal nerves.

Herophilus extensively studied the liver, the pancreas, the eye, including all its structures, the salivary glands and the genital system of both the male and the female. He named the duodenum and the prostate gland. He recognized that the spermatozoa were produced in the testis, although their existence was already known by Plato. He is also credited as being the first to show a direct relation of the pulse with the heart and measure it successfully using a water clock (depicted in the picture above). In addition, Herophilus sought to correct certain misconceptions of medicine that were widely prevalent at the time, such as that arteries carried blood instead of spirit and that the heart had 2 atria and 2 ventricles instead of 3 ventricles.

In the midst of an era where dissections were considered taboo, Herophilus conducted systematic dissections, often done in public, predating Andrea Vesalius for more than a thousand years. Unfortunately, Herophilus was accused of conducting dissections on living people and was named a “butcher”. All the works which he left behind were burnt during the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.

Nevertheless, his knowledge was passed down the generations and today he is recognized for his achievements and is justly named the Father of Anatomy. His aphorism “Wisdom is indemonstrable, art uncertain, strength powerless, wealth useless and speech impotent if health be absent” has guided the medical profession throughout the ages.


  1. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. ”Herophilus” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web. 2 November. 2015.
  2. Tziropoulou Eustathiou, Anna. Archigenethlos Helliniki Glossa. Athens: Georgiades, 2011. Print.
  3. Tziropoulou Eustathiou, Anna. O en tei Lexei Logos. Athens: Georgiades, 2011. Print.

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