In addition to the Museum there was a splendid library,
which at one time contained over five hundred thousand manuscripts—almost
everything that had been written in antiquity. The chief librarian ransacked
private collections and purchased all the books he could find. Every book that
entered Egypt was brought to the Library, where slaves transcribed the
manuscript and gave a copy to the owner in place of the original. Before this
time the manuscripts of celebrated works were often scarce and always in danger
of being lost. Henceforth it was known where to look for them.
The Hellenistic Age was remarkable for the rapid advance
of scientific knowledge. Most of the mathematical works of the Greeks date from
this epoch. Euclid wrote a treatise on geometry which still holds its place in
the schools. Archimedes of Syracuse, who had once studied at Alexandria, made
many discoveries in engineering. A water screw of his device is still in use.
He has the credit for finding out the laws of the lever. "Give me a
fulcrum on which to rest," he said, "and I will move the earth."
The Hellenistic scholars also made remarkable progress in medicine. The medical
school of Alexandria was well equipped with charts, models, and dissecting
rooms for the study of the human body. During the second century of our era all
the medical knowledge of antiquity was gathered up in the writings of Galen
(born about 130 A.D.). For more than a thousand years Galen of Pergamum
remained the supreme authority in medicine.