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Markham Geller

University College London
Ancient Jewish Medicine
01 September 2020 -
30 June 2021
History, philosophy and sociology of science

Markham Geller is currently Jewish Chronicle Professor of Semitic Languages at University College London within the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies. From 2011-2018, he was on secondment from UCL as Professor für Wissensgeschichte at the Freie Universität, Berlin, where he was also PI of an ERC Advanced Grant Project BabMed. He is currently a visiting Fellow at the Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin. He has held fellowships at the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung and was twice Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Wassenaar (NIAS). He was also joint-PI of a multi-year Berlin project on 'Der Transfer medizinischer Episteme in den "enzyklopädischen" Sammelwerken der Spätantike' (DFG funded Sonderforschungsbereich project, Episteme in Bewegung, FU Berlin). He is now collaborator on a British Museum Wellcome-funded project NinMed to produce an online edition of the Nineveh medical library (2020-2022). 

Research Interests

Ancient Babylonian (cuneiform) medicine; Talmudic (Aramaic) medicine; Syriac medicine; Wissenstransfer in Late Antiquity.

The present project intends to analyze all sources from the Babylonian Talmud relating to medicine and adjacent subjects (e.g. healing through magic and ritual means). These include non-Talmudic Aramaic texts from Late Antiquity which bear remarkable similarities to medicine in the Babylonian Talmud: the Mandaic Phylactery of the Rue, the Syriac Book of Medicines, and the Sword of Moses. The striking similarities between these texts and Talmudic medicine have not been previously noted, but these proved clues to the sources from which Talmudic medicine was derived. The immediate aim is to produce a critical overview of medicine in the Talmud as a source for comparison with other medical systems in the region from approximately the same period. The monograph resulting from this study will thematically order the sources according to medical criteria of diagnostics, therapeutics, and medical narratives and case histories. The next step will focus on crucial aspects of Talmudic medicine, beginning with the most important scholars with expertise in medical matters. The analyses will focus on medical prescriptions / recipes and what they reveal about medical theory. The final stage will concentrate on identification of diseases, symptoms, and drugs in relation to similar descriptions in other systems of medicine contemporary with the Talmud, including texts in Akkadian, Aramaic, and Greek.

Antiquity (3500 BCE – 476 CE)
North Africa, Middle East