Praxagoras of Cos on Arteries, Pulse and Pneuma

Fragments and Interpretation


The distinction that Praxagoras of Cos (4th-3rd c. BC) made between arteries and veins and his views on pulsation and pneuma are two significant turning points in the history of ideas and medicine. In this book Orly Lewis presents the fragmentary evidence for this topic and offers a fresh analysis of Praxagoras’ views on the soul and the functions of the heart and pneuma. In so doing, she highlights the empirical basis of Praxagoras’ views and his engagement with earlier medical debates and with Aristotle’s physiology.
The study consists of an edition and translation of the relevant fragments (some absent from the standard 1958 edition) followed by a commentary and a synthetic analysis of Praxagoras’ views and their place in the history of medicine and ideas.
The book has been awarded the Young Historian Prize of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire de Sciences (2019).

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Orly Lewis, Ph.D. (2014) at the Humboldt University in Berlin, is a Martin Buber research fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has published on ancient anatomy, physiology and diagnosis and is co-editor of a forthcoming volume on the concept of pneuma.

"Praxagoras of Cos on Arteries, Pulse and Pneuma is an important contribution to the field of ancient medicine, making accessible to researchers and to students the ideas of a central transitional author between Hippocratic and Hellenistic medical writings. (...) Readers seeking a basic grasp of Praxagoras’ arterial theory will be well served by reading at least the conclusion, which sets out in clear summary form each of the doctrines discussed. The meticulous detail of Lewis’ arguments, meanwhile, lays the foundations for more precise investigation of how theories about the arteries, the pulse, the pneuma, and indeed the nervous system and the soul, developed in the hazy years between “Hippocrates” and Galen." Jessica Wright, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.07.34
All those interested in the history of medicine and philosophy, ancient methods of scientific research and the roles of observation and theoretical thought in the emergence of new ideas.
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