Paul of Aegina

625-690 AD

Paul was a physician and medical scholar. He was born on the island of Aegina and educated in Alexandria, Egypt. His major work was Medical compendium in seven books, written in the late seventh century. The book remained in use as a standard textbook for the next 800 years. The whole work in the original Greek was published in Venice in 1528, and another edition appeared in Basel in 1538. Several Latin translations have been published. The book was first translated into English with commentary by physician Francis Adams sometime between 1844 and 1848. Rhazes drew extensively from this encyplopedic work.

Paul is best known today for his contributions to surgical practices in medieval times. He was the first physician to put forward the idea of stitching together damaged nerves. He also provided detailed advice for different kinds of surgeries, including a tracheotomy:

The surgeon will know that he has opened the trachea when the air streams out of the wound with some force, and the voice is lost. As soon as the danger of suffocation is over, the edges of the wound should be freshened and the skin surfaces brought together with sutures. Only the skin without the cartilage should be sutured, and general treatment for encouraging union should be employed. If the wound fails to heal immediately, a treatment calculated to encourage granulations should be undertaken. This same method of treatment will be of service whenever we happen to have a patient who, in order to commit suicide, has slashed his larynx (Paul of Aegina, 2010).

Paul practiced medicine in both Alexandria and Rome. Among his patients were those who had speech problems. Some of his observations were suspect, however. For example he wrote that young deaf boys had a swelling below the tongue.

Writings of Paul of Aegina

Adams, Francis (translator) (1844-1847). The seven books of Paulus Aegineta London: Syndenham Society.

Writings about Paul of Aegina

Gurunluoglu, R. & Gurunluoglu A. (2003). Paul of Aegina: Landmark in surgical progress. World Journal of Surgery, 27, 18-25.

Pormann, Peter, E. (2004). The oriental tradition of Paul of Aegina's Pragmateia, Studies in Ancient Medicine, 29 Leiden Brill.

Paul of Aegina (2010) Retrieved on March 12, 2010.

Sharples, R. (1983). Nemesius of Emesa and some theories of divine providence. Vigilae Christianae, 37, 141-156.