Aulus Cornelius Celsus (1st century CE)

Celsus, in a 1700s edition of his work. Credits:Wellcome Library, London.

The Roman writer Celsus was probably not a practising physician, but he wrote one of the most important Roman texts on medicine. Very little is known about his life.

Celsus originally compiled his medical work as part of a larger encyclopedia on a wide range of disciplines from agriculture to philosophy. Like other Greek and Roman authors such as Galen, Celsus was interested in preventative medicine as much as in cures. His medical texts recommended a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet, regular exercise and good personal hygiene. Celsus also discussed the value of human and animal experimentation.

The medical sections of his encyclopedia are the only ones which survive. They were only rediscovered around 1480 in the Vatican library. His De medicina was soon widely published, and became one of the most important ancient sources for Renaissance medicine.