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Dr. Peter N. Singer


Research Interests:

History of philosophy; history of medicine, especially psychology, diagnostics and disease classification; Graeco-Roman notions of mind, soul, body, ethics and health; ancient pharmacology; ancient practices of performance, scholarship and book production.


P. N. Singer is a research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, having previously taught at Kings College, London and held research positions at Newcastle University and at the Huboldt-Universität zu Berlin (visiting). He began his research in ancient philosophy and science in Cambridge, where he completed his PhD ('Galen on the Soul: Philosophy and Medicine in the Second Century AD') under Prof. G. E. R. Lloyd. His research centres on notions of the mind or soul (psychê), and on the relationship of mind to body, in Graeco-Roman thought, both philosophical and medical, with a particular focus on Galen (2nd–3rd century CE). He has published a series of articles and book chapters on related themes; co-edited (with Chiara Thumiger) a major volume on mental illness in Greek medicine; and translated a number of works by Galen into English (including several never previously translated into a modern language). Work in progress includes a major study, with translation, of Galen's works on the pulse.

Project Abstract

My project at Chronoi, within the framework of the resesarch group 'Kairos, Krisis, Rhythmos: Time and Time Awareness in Ancient Medicine', builds on my previous work on Galen's psychology and physiology, with a distinct focus on the clinical context of Galen's work and in particular his use of the pulse as a diagnostic and prognostic tool. In this context Galen explores such issues as the possibilities and limitations of time measurement or quantification, the relationship of time to motion, and the relationship of human perception to underlying physical reality. These Galenic works are also of enormous interest for ancient understandings of diagnosis, of medical expertise, and of the doctor–patient relationship. Moreover, the texts in question were of immense influence in medical history, from late antiquity to early modern times, and in both east and west, but remain severely neglected, and hitherto largely untranslated, in the modern age. My project – conducted partly in collaboration with Sean Coughlin and Orly Lewis – will result in a scholarly translation of a major part of this vital body of work, alongside analytical discussions exploring these themes.

Curriculum vitae


PhD (1993), Classics/Ancient Philosophy, Cambridge University

Fellowships and Positions

2016­–2019 | Wellcome Research Fellow in Medical Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London

2014–2015 | Visiting Scholar at Institut für Klassische Philologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, on  project 'Medicine of the Mind, Philosophy of the Body'

2009–2014 | Research Associate, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University, on Wellcome project 'Towards a Galen in English'

2002–2008 | Sessional Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London; Kings College, London and Royal Holloway, University of London

Selected Publications

Galen: Works on Human Nature I: Mixtures (De temperamentis), translation with introduction and notes, with P. van der Eijk, CUP, 2018.

Mental Illness in Ancient Medicine: from Celsus to Paul of Aegina, co-edited with C. Thumiger, Brill, 2018.

Galen: Psychological Writings (ed.), CUP, 2013.

'The essence of rage: Galen on emotional disturbances and their physical correlates', in R. Seaford, J. Wilkins and M. Wright (eds.) Selfhood and the Soul: Essays on Ancient Thought and Literature in Honour of Christopher Gill, OUP, 2017, 161–196.

'Galen', in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, March 2016.

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