Ancient Scientists Who Gave Powerfully Advanced Theories

Fareeha Arshad
A sketch of GalenWikimedia Commons

History never fails to amaze us. Despite how advanced we become, we never fail to learn from the historical accounts — from the people of the past and the pearls of wisdom they left behind.

Everything we do, every decision we make, every step we try to undo is somehow influenced by our past and from where we come from. Let’s look at some of such ancient scientists and the powerfully advanced theories they gave that continues to dominate our scientific thoughts even today.

1. Theories from Galen

Born in 129 A.D. in Pergamon (present-day Turkey), Claudius Galenus was raised in an affluent family and therefore received a complete education.

He was a Greek philosopher, scientist, and physician who served the Roman empire. Galen was also an avid traveller and prolific writer. Galen was also an advocate of the marriage between science and philosophy. His book That the Best Physician Is Also a Philosopher highlighted his beliefs.

Galen views of medicine and human anatomy were highly regarded in ancient society. Because dissection was not allowed in Rome, he studied animals and derived theories based on his observations.

Galen carried out the famous experiment of the ‘squealing pig’ that concluded that pigs could control the sounds they make. He also extensively studied the anatomy of the circulatory systems. His theories were a result of his direct experiments and therefore were rarely disproved or opposed.

2. Theories from Empedocles
A sketch of EmpedoclesWikimedia Commons

Empedocles was born in 494 B.C. and was a native of Sicily. He was a renowned scientist and an able philosopher. He gave the infamous cosmogonic theory about the four classical elements: air, water, earth, and fire.

According to this theory, all matter comprises either or all of the mentioned four elements. He further argued that these elements couldn’t be created or destroyed, thus paving the path to the first law of thermodynamics.

Empedocles also gave a theory on specific forces that he referred to as Love and Strife that could mix or separate elements. He also vehemently opposed animal sacrifice and was a firm believer in reincarnation.

3. Theories from Hippocrates
A portrait of HippocratesWikimedia Commons

Born in 460 B.C., Hippocrates gave the famous ‘theory of four humours’. This theory was widely accepted until the progression of modern medicine in the nineteenth century.

According to this theory, the human body possesses four fluids: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. Any illness occurs because of the changes in the balance of these fluids. The disease conditions can be undone by including more daily physical activities and changing diet.

Though this theory has been disproved now, we must appreciate his thought process to come up with something like this at a time when any illness was attributed to ‘punishment by God’ and thus revolutionized ancient medical practices.

Who are some of the other ancient scientists that you know about, who gave powerfully advanced theories of their time? Do let us know in the comments section.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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