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Democritus, zoology and the physicians

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Chapter Summary

In 1645, the distinguished anatomist and surgeon Marcus Aurelius Severinus (1580–1656), an adopted Neapolitan on active service at the Hospital for Incurables, wrote a treatise on general anatomy that was to have its role in the history of medicine. When evaluating relationship of Democritus to this framework, the main role is played on the one hand by the treatises of the Hippocratic corpus and on the other hand by what we may call traditional knowledge. Democritus seems rather to take up a position on topics to act as a point of confluence of the two main, still traceable routes: the ‘functional zoology’ of physicians, and the comparative attention to animals to draw analogical conclusions for man and the world. The surviving information concerning Democritus’ zoological investigations is rather scanty. Democritus is not a zoologist, nor do his observations in themselves offer a very original contribution.

Keywords: Democritus; Hippocratic corpus; physicians; zoology



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