Early evolution of the thermometer and application to clinical medicine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


By the time of Hippocrates and Galen the notion of fevers and temperature were known. Through ensuing centuries, ancient Greek, Roman, and medieval savants and physicians made additional contributions to the understanding of fever, temperature, and thermometry. By the end of that era, there was a working definition of what constitutes a rationale temperature scale, the distinction between fever as a symptom and fever as a disease, an elaborate classification scheme for temperature, hypotheses as to the causes of fever, and methods for measuring fevers. Based on the definition of fever at that time, the 16th century scientist Galileo promulgated production of thermometric instruments hundreds of years before they were routinely used in the clinical setting. In this work we examine the history of fever and clinical thermometry in the ancient world through the end of the eighteenth century with descriptions of instruments for its measure and human relationship to fever.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-30
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Fever
  • Temperature
  • Thermometer
  • Thermometry
  • Thermoscope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Developmental Biology


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