Approximately 1,500 years ago, an unknown individual took the words of the famous Greek physician Galen of Pergamon and inscribed them inside a book, and this week scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California are using highly intense x-rays in an attempt to reveal the hidden writings.
The reason Galen’s writings in this book are unreadable today is because 1,000 years ago, someone decided that Christian Psalms were more important than medical jargon, and worked extremely hard to scrape off the medical text that had been written so that it could be replaced by Psalms, according to Live Science. This book then disappeared for a time and resurfaced in Germany in the year 1900.
Galen of Pergamon exerted a powerful influence on the world of medicine that lasted for 1,300 years, and his ideas about humorism and bloodletting were advocated long after he was gone. Galen wrote anatomical reports that were in use until 1543 and was so in demand during his lifetime that he was made the personal physician of numerous emperors who deemed him the greatest and most learned doctor of his time.
However, despite his medical leanings, Galen still retained the belief that philosophy should always go hand in hand with medical work and even wrote a treatise titled That the Best Physician Is Also a Philosopher. But it is Galen of Pergamon’s medical writings that scientists are interested in now, which is why they are going to such great lengths to uncover his medical texts in this 1,500-year-old book with x-rays.
— Live Science (@LiveScience) March 14, 2018
As Science Alert reports, a device known as the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource may be the key to unlocking the hidden writings of Galen in this book. If all goes according to plan, x-rays from the cyclic particle accelerator should be able to reveal the ink that was once used inside the ancient book before it was blotted out and Psalms written over it.
So far, 26 pages of medical texts inside of this book have undergone numerous hours of x-ray scanning. As Peter Pormann from the University of Manchester testified, so far the results have been nothing short of phenomenal. In fact, a preface to the writings of Galen has already been discovered in this book.
“The first initial results are incredibly mind-blowing. This is a unique witness to this particular text. Galen is the most important and most influential physician arguably of all time. This is basically our history, this is how medicine developed.”
With 200 pages of Galen of Pergamon’s text still left to x-ray, scientists have announced that once the book is finished, they will post the writings of the Greek physician and philosopher online so that all interested scholars will be able to study it in the future.