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I’m an Asclepiad, Jim, Not an Ocularius

I'm tempted to explain the title joke, but... you know what? I don't think I will. So there. Ten space pennies to whichever reader first responds with the proper explanation. Because the best jokes are also riddles, right?

Medical history is one of my favorite topics. As an undergrad I was fortunate to work with a second edition of Andreas Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem, that revolutionary tome that contested and updated Galen’s anatomical observations from over a millennium earlier.

This shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of Galen. Unlike his far-removed successor, the Roman prohibition on human dissection forced guesswork on his part. If anything, the anatomists led remarkably parallel careers. Both challenged received wisdom, ran afoul of their period’s traditions, and eventually escaped into self-imposed exile. Where Vesalius drew fire by concluding that men didn’t have fewer ribs than women, a detail that clashed with the Catholic Church’s belief that Adam’s rib had formed Eve, Galen threaded an awkward middle ground between the dominant dogmatist and empiric schools of medicine, drawing ire and threats of poisoning when he spurned their guiding philosophies.

Galenus, designed by Harry-Pekka Kuusela, steps into the testy waters of Galen’s poison-laced Rome. It’s a fascinating setting. If only it provided more of a deep dive than a shallow wade.

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