The History of Human Brain Research:
Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece

The Human Brain: "Before you even begin to think about counseling this unique and complex body part, you better understand it." 

Dr. Michelle Stangline

The 48 cases included 27 head injuries. The brain is mentioned 7 times in the papyrus (Breasted, 1930). Medical history scholars are impressed by the scientific approach for diagnosing and treating the patients of the papyrus (Brandt-Rauf, 1987). The ancient Egyptians held the belief that the heart was the most important organ of the human body.

In the Egyptian funeral guide, “The Book of the Dead”, it is instructed that a dead man’s heart must be weighed against feathers to determine if good or evil is contained in the heart. The brain was considered unimportant to the early Egyptians. It was discarded and thrown out. The brain had no place in the afterlife (Brandt-Rauf, 1987).

Moving forward to the Aegean Islands of Cos, we find evidence on medical ethics and brain surgery texts written by Hippocrates in 470 B.C. (Potter, 1994). He wrote about the clinical signs of head injuries and described depression, seizures, and head contusions quite accurately. He also wrote that the brain is filled with sensations and that it is the center of intelligence (Potter, 1994).

The star of the first century Roman A.D. is Aulus Cornelius Celsus. Celsus operated on depressed skull fractures and wrote in detail about the brain injuries of his patients (Celsus).

In Athens, Greece as early as 387 B.C., Plato writes that the brain is the “seat of the mental process (Plato, 1997).” He was followed by Aristotle in 380 B.C., who believed that the mind contained the thinking and emotional process. He also experimented by dissecting animals. Aristotle believed the mind contained all the emotions and thinking processes (Aristotle, 1997).   

    


Human Brain Research History of Ancient Rome, Asia, & Middle Ages
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