Galen was Jean-Luc Picard's archaeology professor at Starfleet Academy; he saw great potential in Picard and was very close to him, but ultimately Picard refused Galen's offer of becoming an archaeologist, which heavily disappointed Galen. Until 2369, the two hadn't met for thirty years, but Picard kept track of the professor's work and Galen of Picard's. Just before Galen's death, Picard stated that he had been the father who had understood him, in stark contrast to his real father.
Galen spent the 2360s in micropaleontology and discovered a 4.5 billion year old code programmed in the DNA of dozens of species by ancient humanoids. In 2369, Galen was close to deciphering the code and paid a surprise visit to Picard on the USS Enterprise-D, collaborating with Commander William T. Riker to surprise Picard with the gift of a Kurlan artifact he had recently discovered, the Kurlan naiskos. Surprised to see his old teacher, Picard assured him that no one could be more welcome aboard the Enterprise-D, and was particularly touched at the gift given the rarity of the piece. However, when Galen asked Picard to come with him for the rest of his journey, Picard again disappointed Galen by refusing, and Galen left the ship immediately.
Shortly thereafter, Galen died as a result of injuries suffered when his shuttle was attacked by the Yridians working for the Cardassians. Before he died, Galen admitted to Picard that he had been too harsh with him. Picard was later able to complete the late Richard Galen's discovery.