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Dr. Orly Lewis

Research Interests:

History of science, medicine and ideas; History of anatomy, physiology and diagnostics; Pre-modern ideas of body and soul; Medical practice and research in ancient Greece and Rome; The reciprocal relation between theory and experience


Orly Lewis is a research fellow at The Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities and Social Sciences at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She completed her PhD in Classics at The Humboldt University of Berlin (2014) and have published on ancient anatomy, physiology and diagnosis and the relation between theory and practice in ancient scientific method. Her monograph (Brill, 2017) is a philological and historical study of Praxagoras’ ideas of pneuma and the vascular system; it was awarded the 2019 Young Historian Prize by the International Academy for the History of Science. In 2020 she will begin a five-year research project on Greco-Roman anatomy, funded by an ERC Starting-Grant. In July 2020 she will begin a Senior Lecturer position at the Department of Classics at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Project Abstract

My work explores Greco-Roman medicine, natural philosophy, biology and scientific method. Alongside questions concerning ancient ideas of the structure and workings of the body and mind, I consider how theory, empirical research and clinical practice fed into one another so as to generate different models of human anatomy and physiology and different methods for examining and interpreting the physical and mental condition of individual patients.

Additionally, my work addresses methodological problems arising from the fragmentary nature of our  sources, the scarcity of material evidence, the dangers of anachronism and the disciplinary and conceptual gaps between historians of medicine and the physicians whom we study.

My project at Chornoi continues my work on ancient theories and methods concerning the pulse and on key medical authors of the Hellenistic and Early-Roman periods. I focus on the work of the Pneumatist physician Archigenes of Apamea (first-second centuries CE). I am mapping and interpreting his classification of different types of pulse (according to criteria such as size, fullness, hardness) and examining his use of pulse examination in his clinical practice.

Curriculum vitae


PhD (2014), Classics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Summa cum laude)

MA (2010), Classics, Tel-Aviv University (Summa cum Laude)

BA (2007), Classics and History, Tel-Aviv University (Summa cum laude)

Fellowships and Positions

From July 2020 | Senior Lecturer

Department of Classics (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

2020—2025 | PI of the project: Anatomy in Ancient Greece and Rome: An Interactive Visual and Textual Atlas (ATLOMY)

ERC-Starting Grant

2016—2020 | Post-Doctoral Fellow

Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities and Social Sciences (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

2015—2016 | Post-Doctoral Fellow

Humboldt University of Berlin / Excellence Cluster TOPOI (“The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations”) Group D-2: Mapping Body and Soul

Selected Publications

Praxagoras of Cos on Arteries Pulse and Pneuma: Fragments and Interpretation (Leiden: Brill, 2017).

'What was Pneumatist about the Pneumatist School?', in: S. Coughlin, D. Leith, O. Lewis, The Concept of Pneuma after Aristotle (Berlin: Edition Topoi, in print). (with Sean Coughlin).

'Fragments of History and Science', Isis 109.1 (2018), 83–86.

'Marcellinus’ De pulsibus: a Neglected Treatise on the Ancient ‘Art of the Pulse’”, Scripta Classica Israelica 34 (2015), 195-214.

'The Substance of De Spiritu', Early Science and Medicine, 20.2 (2015), 101-124. (with Pavel Gregoric and Martin Kuhar).

News Articles

Thank You for Another Successful Year

February 23, 2023

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February 23, 2023

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