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Dr Peter Singer

MA Classics, PhD Ancient Philosophy (University of Cambridge)
Research Fellow in Classics (Medical Humanities)

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room G12
27 Russell Square



  • P. N. Singer joined Birkbeck in 2016 as a Wellcome Fellow in Medical Humanities, having previously held posts at Newcastle and at the Humboldt University, Berlin. He works on Greek philosophy and medicine, with particular interests in Galen and in ancient approaches to mind and body and to ethical wellbeing. He also has interests in ancient drama and performance practice. In a separate project, he recently worked on and translated a newly-discovered Holocaust survivor's account (Moriz Scheyer).

Research and teaching

  • Introduction
  • My research has focussed on the 2nd-century-AD medical author Galen, and the interaction of philosophical and medical ideas, especially in his 'psychology'. My current project, 'Galen on the Pulse', investigates a central aspect of clinical theory and practice in the Graeco-Roman world, on the basis of a large body of previously unexamined texts (which will be translated in the course of the project). Questions explored include: the nature of the ancient doctor-patient encounter; the construction and social profile of medical expertise; the ways in which philosophical-scientific theory does or does not accommodate individual clinical experience. The research also feeds into my broader interest in the mind-body relationship in ancient medical and philosophical writing.
  • Research interests
  • Galen
  • Ancient approaches to the mind-body relationship
  • Medical writings, from Hippocratics and Presocratics to Galen
  • Intellectual debates and the use of authority in the Second Sophistic
  • Graeco-Roman scholarship and practices of book composition and distribution
  • Ancient commentary and exegesis (especially in Platonism and Hippocratism)
  • Texts of 'practical ethics' (Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Plutarch)
  • 5th-century Greek drama and performance practice
  • Teaching
  • I am co-teaching (with Serafina Cuomo) the MA course 'Ancient Knowledge - Knowledge of the Body'


  • Books
  • Mental Illness in Ancient Medicine: From Celsus to Caelius Aurelianus (co-ed. with C. Thumiger, Brill, forthcoming)
  • Galen: Works on Human Nature (co-ed. with P. van der Eijk, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)
  • Asylum by Moriz Scheyer (ed. and trans., Profile Books, 2016)
  • Galen: Psychological Writings (ed., Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • Galen: Selected Works (Oxford University Press, 1997)
  • Journal articles
  • 'New light and old texts: Galen on his own books', in C. Petit (ed.) Studies on Galen's Peri Alupias (Brill, forthcoming)
  • 'A new distress: Galen's ethics in Peri Alupias and beyond', ibid.
  • 'The essence of rage: Galen on emotional disturbances and their physical correlates', in J. Wilkins et al. (ed.) Selfhood and the Soul (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
  • 'Galen' entry in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2016)
  • 'Galen and the philosophers: philosophical engagement, shadowy contemporaries, Aristotelian transformations', in P. Adamson et al. (eds) Philosophical Themes in Galen (Institute of Classical Studies, 2015), 7-38
  • 'The fight for health: tradition, competition, subdivision and philosophy in Galen's hygienic writings', British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22:5 (2014), 974-95
  • 'Galen’, in H. and W. F. Bynum, eds, Dictionary of Medical Biography (Westport, CT and London, 2007)
  • ‘Notes on Galen’s Hippocrates’, in M. Vegetti and S. Gastaldi, eds, Studi di storia della medicina antica e medievale (La Nuova Italia, 1996), 66-76
  • ‘Some Hippocratic mind-body problems’, in J. A. López Férez, ed., Actas del VIIe Colloque International Hippocratique (Madrid, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, 1992), 131-43


Honours and awards

  • Visiting Fellow at Humboldt University, Berlin, 2014-15


  • My edition and translation of the recently-discovered survivor's account by the Austrian author Moriz Scheyer (my step-grandfather) was published by Profile Books in January 2016 and is published by Little, Brown in the US lin September 2016, as well as in French, German, Italian and Spanish translations.