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Erasistratus (ĕrəsĭsˈtrətəs), fl. 3d cent. B.C., Greek physician, b. Chios. He was the leader of a school of medicine in Alexandria, and his works were influential until the 4th cent. A.D. He considered plethora (hyperemia) to be the primary cause of disease. As opposed to the then current belief in the humors, he suggested that air carried from the lungs to the heart is converted into a vital spirit distributed by the arteries. He developed a reverse theory of circulation (veins to arteries). Studying from dissections, he observed the convolutions of the brain, named the trachea, and distinguished (as did his contemporary Herophilus) between motor and sensory nerves. He also devised a catheter and a calorimeter.
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Born circa 304 B.C. on the island of Chios; died circa 250 B.C. (according to some sources, 240 or 280 B.C.) in Alexandria or possibly on the island of Samos. Greek physician.

A student of Theophrastus’, Erasistratus became one of the two principal members of the Alexandrian school of medicine, the other being Herophilus. Erasistratus made a series of anatomical and physiological discoveries through vivisection and the dissection of corpses. He was particularly interested in the brain, in which he sought the source of all human activity. He described the dura mater, the pia mater, the external appearance of the cerebellum, and the nerve tracts proceeding from the brain; he distinguished between motor and sensory nerves. Erasistratus also described gastric peristalsis, the lacteal vessels of the mesentery, the epiglottis, and the trachea. He introduced the term “parenchyma” to designate the belly of a muscle and the soft part of certain internal organs. Erasistratus discovered the function of the cardiac and venous valves; he thought, however, that the veins contained blood and the arteries air. He is credited with introducing the term “artery” (literally, “carrying air”).

Erasistratus believed that intemperate eating and an excess of blood in the veins were the causes of disease; for this reason, the therapy he prescribed generally involved a dietary regimen, bloodletting, or the use of laxatives or emetics. He is said to have invented the catheter. Erasistratus’ works, which are no longer extant, are known from the works of Galen and Caelius Aurelianus.


Kovner, S. G. Ocherki istorii meditsiny, fase. 3: Istoriia drevnei meditsiny. Kiev, 1888. Page 146.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It was here that the practice of human dissection began: The physicians Herophilus and Erasistratus performed systematic dissections of the human body, observed many complex anatomical features, and developed a sophisticated theory of human physiology.
At the onset of the Hellenistic era (late 4th century BC), the cardiocentric consensus (heart as control centre) gradually receded, as influential Alexandrians such as Herophilus and Erasistratus brought evidence of an encephalocentric hegemonikon.
Herophilus of Alexandria and Erasistratus, his student, are the first to rely on dissection, in 300 BC.
Further, Erasistratus, known as the father of physiology, is credited with one of the first in-depth descriptions of the cerebrum and cerebellum [26].
(3) Erasistratus, for example, against whose ideas Galen wrote, did not deny that phlebotomy worked; he just thought that its dangers outweighed its advantages and that the same somatic effects could be achieved more safely, for example, by starvation.
In 200 BC, Erasistratus was probably the first to carry out dissections to look for changes due to disease.
9) omits any reference to Herophilus and Erasistratus in third-century BC Alexandria; when these two figures are mentioned, on pages 29 and 37, no reference is made to Heinrich von Staden's magisterial Herophilus: The Art of Medicine in Early Alexandria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).
They valued the male and the female at 10,000 drachmas, as Antiphon says in his speech against Erasistratus." Cf.
The first documented dissections for the study of disease were performed by Alexandrian physicians Herophilus and Erasistratus in about 300 BC.
[His most admired speeches are the one concerning Herodes, the one against Erasistratus concerning the peacocks, the one on the Impeachment, which he wrote in his own defence, and the one against the general Demosthenes for an illegal proposal.]
Erasistratus distinguished between the cerebrum (the main section of the brain) and the cerebellum (the smaller section behind it).