Luis Alejandro Salas

Associate Professor of Classics​
Director of Undergraduate Studies in Classics
PhD, University of Texas
research interests:
  • Greek and Roman medicine, philosophy, and intellectual history; Galen; medical sectarianism; Aristotelian psychology
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    • MSC 1050-153-244
    • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
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    Luis Alejandro Salas' research and teaching interests lie primarily in Greek and Roman medicine, philosophy, and intellectual history. 

    Salas's work focuses on the ways in which philosophical ideas and polemic influence their medical counterparts from the Hellenistic period through the second century CE, especially in the work of Galen of Pergamum (129-216 CE). Luis also maintains an interest in Aristotelian psychology and Philosophy of Language. Luis took his PhD in Classics and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin, in the Joint Program in Ancient Philosophy. Professionally, he is committed to promoting the importance of medical history and the history of philosophy to contemporary medicine and the humanities. He is the associate editor of APEIRON, an international journal for the history of science and philosophy.

    Salas is the author of Cutting Words: Polemical Dimensions of Galen's Anatomical Experiments (Leiden: Brill, 2020). In it, he offers a new account of Galen’s medical experiments in the context of the high intellectual culture of second-century Rome. The book explores how Galen’s written experiments operate alongside their live counterparts. It argues that Galen’s experimental writing reperforms the licensing functions of his live demonstrations, acting as a surrogate for their performance and in some cases an improvement upon it.

    Salas has also published various articles on the history of Greek and Roman medicine.

    He is currently working on an article about prehension as an underlying taxonomical principle in the comparative anatomical claims of Greco-Roman anatomists.

    recent courses

    Topics in Ancient Studies: Science and Medicine in Ancient Greece and Rome (L08 Classics 4361)

    There is a sometimes popular narrative that contemporary science represents the culmination of a tradition that began in the Greco-Roman world. In a trivial sense, this story is true; in a far more interesting sense it is not. This course examines the scientific traditions of the ancient Greco-Roman world, with a focus on ancient biology and medicine. We will consider how the Greeks distinguished their sciences from traditional cultural accounts and discuss what factors contributed to the emergence of this distinction. It begins with the emergence of Greek scientific accounts in the Classical period (5th-4th centuries BCE), the growing importance of empirical observation in the Hellenistic period (4th-1st centuries BCE), and culminates with Galen of Pergamum's (2nd century CE) synthesis of the medical traditions that preceded him. A final week will describe the heirs of Greco-Roman science, from medieval Europeans and the Islamic world up to the Scientific Revolution. The goal of this course will be to expose the student to approaches and pitfalls to the study of ancient science while also engaging with the Greco-Roman scientific tradition, especially the ancient biological tradition, from the perspective of its practitioners.

      Beginning Greek I (L09 Greek 101D)

      An intensive introduction to Classical Greek, the language of Homer, Sophocles, Plato, and the New Testament. The goal will be to develop a reading knowledge as rapidly and efficiently as possible and the work of the course will include extensive readings in literary texts.

        Selected Publications

        "Fighting with the Heart of a Beast: Galen's Use of the Elephant's Cardiac Anatomy against Cardiocentrists", Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 54 (2014) 697–726 (Duke University Press)