Studying Medicine Through the Ages

Maury Hanson Jr. (Ph.D. ’88) was already a medical doctor when he arrived in Chapel Hill to study classics. After specializing in neurosurgery at Cornell University, Hanson spent his career as a surgeon in New York City and the Washington, D.C., area. After retiring, Hanson decided to study ancient medicine at Carolina.

During his time at UNC, Hanson produced a dissertation that the 1988 classics department newsletter called “eye-opening.” In “Eye Terms in Greek Tragedy” (1987), Hanson reinterpreted passages in ancient texts in light of his own medical experience.

After graduating with his Ph.D., Hanson continued his personal research, traveling to libraries around Europe to translate and edit ancient Greek texts. He focused on the writings of Hippocrates, who is often referred to as the “father of medicine.” In 1999, Hanson published a book, Hippocrates On Head Wounds, in which he translated Hippocrates’ treatise by the same name and provided commentary.

Today, his legacy will live on in Chapel Hill in a unique way: When Hanson died at age 100 last spring, he bequeathed an unrestricted planned gift of nearly $300,000 to the Department of Classics and a collection of rare books and manuscripts of Greek and Latin literature to University Libraries. Though a formal decision has not been made yet, Donald Haggis, professor and chair of the Classics Department, said that the gift will most likely be used for faculty development and graduate student support.

“It was a very pleasant surprise,” said Haggis. “This comes as a welcome gift for a number of reasons.”

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