History of Medicine
A philosophic physician once said, “In order to study and practice medicine in a proper manner, it is necessary to be impressed with its importance; and to be so impressed, we must believe in it” (as cited in Renouard, 1856, p. iii). Any practitioner must have an efficacy of his art so that he can devote himself to the study and practice of it. However, there exist many arguments as how can practitioners apply and put his confidence on medicine if they themselves doubt the origin of medicine. The question is: how does medicine originated? Many argued that medicine sprung from the natural wants of man. Others claimed that medicine is an evidence of the degeneration of human. In order for us to trace the origin of medicine is it crucial that we look at history in general for it can – alone – resolve the question in a decisive manner. For many historians, medicine presents itself as a profession, as an art and as a science. Medicine also varies in description if we are to account time as ancient, medieval or modern; geography as Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Chinese, Hebrew, Islamic or European; and specialization as microbiology, anatomy, cardiology, surgery, neurology and many others (Renouard, 1856, passim).
Medicine is originally called the art of healing. Notably, the history of medicine had been always associated with the need to cure disease or diseases that emerged in specific periods. During ancient times, human discovered, by trial and error, which plants may be as good as foods, which are poisonous and which had medicinal value. Tribal communities have relied on herbal remedies to deal with everyday discomforts. Other cultures made medicines from parts of animals and minerals (Lewis, 2000). The ancient practice of healing is to treat diseases in physical manner along with spiritual cure (Schools History) as well. Sometimes prayers and oil anointment in the name of the Lord were the extensions of treatments. This has dominated the ancient period. Illness had been attributed to different elemental as witchcraft, astrology and gods (Lewis, 2000). Perhaps, the way people counter such illnesses is through the same way the illness was conceived; thus, herbalism and miraculous healing.
Given that the medical system from AD 1000 to 1500 lacked in experts training, most treatments happened at home. Medicine was dominated by Galen’s idea. His principles were primarily based on concepts that human functioning was consists of blended elements of fire, water, air and earth. Combating diseases are basically done through magic symbols, sacred amulets and plant extractions. Drugs mostly came from roots, leaves, seeds and barks of plants and wafers are the preferred dose forms. No specified amount of dosage was recorded but only instructions such as ‘a handful’, ‘a bundle’ or ‘a cup’. Nonetheless, it was also during this time that the medical practitioners recognize the linkage between hygiene and health (Lewis, 2000). The emergence of Renaissance gave way for the development of science as a craft. Though the power of superstition remains, physicians and surgeons became known. Barber-surgeons had their own formulas for curing abdominal injuries, anal fistulae and bladder stones. The two most common methods used were cauterizing (burning) and bloodletting.
During the industrial revolution, medicine changes in many forms, in many times, regressing. There had been lack in care and the ability to maintain public health facilities. As the church taught God-sent illnesses and that repentance eradicates evil, many people believed that pilgrimage could cure them (Schools History). Apart from this, opioids were sold without restrictions and labels on bottles gave no indication of addictive ingredients (Lewis, 2000). Despite medical disparities, there were also examples of good practices. Most trained doctors that use Hippocrates’ teachings developed diagnosis through urine sampling (Schools History). In the 19th century, medicine was revolutionized. Advancements in chemistry and the subsequent improvement on laboratory techniques and equipments made bacteriology possible. Vaccines and antiseptics were developed. It reflects the idea on how people recognize that there are several sources of diseases aside from insanitation and malnutrition. It was also during this time that more women participated in the male-dominated medical arena (Broomhall, 2004, p. 11).
Ancient Egypt: Ancient Egyptian Medicine. Schools History. Retrieved on 30 January 2008 from http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/ancientegypt.htm
Broomhall, S. (2004). Women’s Medical Work in early Modern France. Manchester University Press.
Lewis, C. (2000, March). Medical Milestone of the Last Millennium. FDA Consumer, 43(2), 8.
Medicine in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Schools History. Retrieved on 30 January 2008 from http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/medievalmedicine.htm
Renouard, P. V. (1856). History of Medicine: From its Origin to the Nineteenth Century, with an Appendix, Containing A Philosophical and Historical review of Medicine to the Present Time. Oxford University Press.
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