North American Scholar

EDELSTEIN, Ludwig

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1902-04-23
  • Born City: Berlin
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Isidor & Mathilde Adler E.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1965-08-16
  • Death City: New York
  • Death State/Country: NY
  • Married: Emma J. Levy, 25 Oct. 1928
  • Education:

    U. Berlin, 1921-4; Ph.D. Heidelberg, 1929.

  • Professional Experience:

    Asst. instr. hist, med., U. Berlin, 1930-2; lctr. philos., 1933; assoc. hist. med. Johns Hopkins, 1934-9; assoc. prof. 1939-47; prof. Gk. U. California (Berkeley), 1948-50; guest prof. Johns Hopkins, 1951-2; prof. humanistic studies, 1952-60; prof. class. philos., 1960-5; prof. Rockefeller Inst. 1960-65; Martin lctr., 1956; mem. APS.

  • Dissertation:

    “Περὶ ἀέρων und die Sammlung der hippokratischen Schriften” (Heidelberg, 1929); printed, Problemata IV (Berlin, 1931).

  • Publications:

    “Antike Diatetik,” Die Antike 7 (1931) 255-70 (Eng. trans, as “The Diatetics of Antiquity” by C. Lilian Temkin in Ancient Medicine: Selected Papers of Ludwig Edelstein, ed. Oswei Temkin & C. Lilian Temkin [Baltimore, 1967], 303-16); “Die Geschichte der Sektion in der Antike,” in Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Naturwissens-chaften und der Medizin 3, Heft 2 (1932) 50-106 [pp. 100-56 of the volume] (Eng. trans, by C. Lilian Temkin as “The History of Anatomy in Antiquity” in Ancient Medicine, 247-301); “Empire and Skepsis in der Lehre der griechischen Empirikerschule,” Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Medizin 3, Heft 4 (1933) 45-53 [pp. 253-61 of the volume] (Eng. trans. “Empiricism and Skepticism in the Teaching of the Greek Empiricist School” by C. Lilian Temkin in Ancient Medicine, 195-203); “Methodiker,” RE Supplementband VI (Stuttgart, 1935) cols. 358-73 (Eng. trans, as “The Methodists” by C. Lilian Temkin in Ancient Medicine, 173-91); “Hippocratic Prognosis,” (trans, from ch. 2 of Περὶ ἀέρων und die Sammlung by C. Lilian Temkin in Ancient Medicine, 65-85); “Greek Medicine in its Relation to Religion and Magic,” BHM 5 (1937) 201-46 = Ancient Medicine, 205-46; “The Hippocratic Physician,” trans, from ch. 3 of Περὶ ἀέρων by C. Lillian Temkin in Ancient Medicine, 87-112; “The Genuine Works of Hippocrates,” BHM 7 (1939) 236-48 = Ancient Medicine, 133-44; “Primum Graius Homo (Lucretius 1.66),” TAPA 71 (1940) 78-90; “Horace, Odes 11,7,9-10,” AJP 62 (1941) 441-51; The Hippocratic Oath (Baltimore, 1943) = Ancient Medicine, 4-63; Asclepius. A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies, with Emma J. Edelstein, 2 vols. (Baltimore, 1945); “The Role of Eryximachus in Plato's Symposium,” TAPA 76 (1945) 85-103 = Ancient Medicine, 153-71; Hindu Medicine, ed. H. R. Zimmer, foreword & pref. by Edelstein (Baltimore, 1948); “Wieland's 'Abderiten' und der deutsche Humanismus,” U. Cal. Publ. Mod. Phil. 26 (1950) 441-71; “The Relation of Ancient Philosophy to Medicine,” BHM 26 (1952) 299-316 = Ancient Medicine, 349-66; “Recent Trends in the Interpretation of Ancient Science,” Journal of the History of Ideas 13 (1952) 573-604 = Ancient Medicine, 401-39; Erich Frank, Collected Essays (ed.) (Zurich, 1955); “The Professional Ethics of the Greek Physician,” BHM 30 (1956) 391-419 = Ancient Medicine 319-48; “The Distinctive Hellenism of Greek Medicine,” BHM 40 (1966) 197-255 = Ancient Medicine, 367-97.

  • Notes:

    Poor health characterized Edelstein's early life, so that physicians and disease were imprinted on him, even before he entered the Joachim-Friedrichs-Gymnasium, which emphasized the study of languages and literatures, with special value placed on Latin, Greek, and the German classics. Classical philology led Edelstein into his pursuit of ancient philosophy and classics at the University of Berlin, where his major professors were Werner Jaeger and Eduard Spranger. Transferring to Heidelberg, Edelstein continued his studies in philosophy and the classics under the direction of Karl Jaspers, Otto Regenbogen, and Alfred Weber. Edelstein's dissertation reflected the scientific and philosophic interests of Regenbogen, whose research on the “experimental method” produced a seminal article on the question in antiquity (Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Mathematik, Abt. B, Studien 1 [1930]), and whose 1940 RE study of Theophrastus remains standard. That dissertation by Edelstein foreshadowed almost all of his scholarship in its uncompromising insistence on reading the ancient medical texts within the contexts of culture and philosophy. Thus he could easily demonstrate that Hippocrates as the “Father of Medicine” was a myth, and that Greek physicians made their living as craftsmen (as attested in the texts), and that the venerated concept of prognosis was used by the Hippocratic-style doctor to enhance repute as contrasted to any supposed “scientific” approaches to medicine. Moreover, to the disgruntlement of most specialist scholars on the topic in the 1930s, Edelstein could show through precise argument and analysis that a large number of anonymous medical works became “Hippocratic” as the reputation of this figure (mentioned by Plato) grew in classical antiquity (a view now accepted by almost all scholars of ancient medical studies).

    Edelstein's American years produced significant studies: his Hippocratic Oath attempted to date and establish the significance of this famous document; the two-volume Asclepius remains the basic collection of texts, translations, and commentary on the Greco-Roman god of medicine, and Edelstein's interpretations of the role of Asclepian shrines as having little to do with the training of Greek and Roman physicians have gained wide acceptance in current scholarship (a corollary thesis—that so-called secular medicine as contrasted with religious healing existed side-by-side with no assumed animosity—has also been accepted, as illustrated by the writings of G. E. R. Lloyd).

    One interlude of this period shows Edelstein's integrity. After leaving Johns Hopkins for Berkeley in 1948, he resigned in 1950 rather than sign a loyalty oath. Edelstein, along with twenty other professors who also refused to sign the oath, was fired by the Board of Regents in 1950. John Hopkins took him back and he continued to produce fundamental scholarship on Greek and Roman medicine.

    Edelstein's 1956 article on medical ethics in ancient Greek and Roman medicine suggests why medicine in any century imposes on its practitioners the perception of certain moral imperatives peculiar to the practice of medicine; his 1945 essay on Eryximachus in Plato's Symposium shows that Plato was not caricaturing the Greek doctor but was a student of philosophy, and that the best doctors were those schooled in philosophical arguments. Edelstein's “late date” for the Hippocratic Oath is generally accepted, even if his attribution of the oath to Pythagorean sources is not, but even the rejection of a Pythagorean origin by modern scholars does little to diminish Edelstein's achievement in commenting on and perceiving the true nature of Greco-Roman medicine. His contribution to ancient medical studies stands as essential: philosophy is basic to understanding of Greco-Roman medical theory as a whole (whether one considers medical thinking as influential on philosophy or vice versa), and the modern student who recognizes the philosophical basis of ancient medicine will understand why such as Galen, with his panoply of medico-philosophical notions, should have dominated western medical theory well beyond the Renaissance.

  • Sources:

    H. Cherniss, Year Book APhS (1965) 130-8; H. Diller, Gnomon 38 (1966) 429-32; O. Temkin, BHM 40 (1966) 1-13; WhAm 4:278.

  • Author: John Scarborough