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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.


Peter 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 Huboldt-Universität zu Berlin (visiting). He began his research in ancient philosophy and science at Cambridge, where he completed his Ph.D. (Galen on the Soul: Philosophy and Medicine in the Second Century AD) under Prof. G. E. R. Lloyd. His research focuses on notions of mind or soul (psychê) and the relationship of mind to body in Graeco-Roman thought, both philosophical and medical, with a particular emphasis 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). 

Peter previously held a fellowship as part of the EC-C research group 'Kairos, Krisis, Rhythmos: Time and Time Awareness in Ancient Medicine', focusing on Galen's works on the pulse. He published Time for the Ancients: Measurement, Theory, Experience with EC-C's De Gruyter series. Most recently, his translation and edition of Galen's Writings on Health has been published by Cambridge University Press.

Project Abstract

The Temporality of Emotions in the Graeco-Roman World. The project aims to investigate the role of temporality in the way emotions were understood and experienced in antiquity. It will focus on three key aspects of emotions, including their temporal duration, their timeliness or temporal appropriateness, and the role of anticipation and memory. The research will draw primarily on philosophical texts on emotions and their control, as well as medical texts that offer insights into the physiological nature of emotions and how emotional dispositions vary across life stages. By shedding new light on the intersection of time and emotions in antiquity, this project will provide a highly original and salient contribution to the study of both time and emotions in antiquity.

Past Project 

Galen's Use of the Pulse as a Diagnostic and Prognostic Tool. 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


Ph.D. (1993), Classics/Ancient Philosophy, Cambridge University

Fellowships and Positions


Honorary Research Fellow, Birkbeck, University of London 


Research Fellow, Einstein Center Chronoi, independent project: 'Time Conceptualization and Measurement in Ancient Diagnostics'.


Research Fellow, Einstein Center Chronoi. As part of the research group ‘Kairos, Krisis, Rhythmos. Time and Time Awareness in Ancient Medicine’, coordinated by Prof. Dr. Philip van der Eijk.


Wellcome Research Fellow in Medical Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London


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


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


Sessional Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London; Kings College, London and Royal Holloway, University of London

Selected Publications

2023. Galen: Writings on Health. Cambridge University Press. 

2022. Time for the Ancients: Measurement, Theory, Experience. De Gruyter. 

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

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

2013. Galen: Psychological Writings (ed.), Cambridge University Press.

2017. "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, Oxford University Press, 161–196.

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

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February 23, 2023

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