Syphilis The Scourge Of The Renaissance

The changing pattern of epidemic diseases or diagnostic categories characteristic of the Renaissance is almost as striking as the transformation of art, science, and scholarship. Although leprosy did not entirely disappear, and waves of plague continued to break over Europe, diseases previously rare, absent, or unrecognized such as syphilis, typhus, smallpox, and influenza became major public health threats. Many diseases are worthy of a full biography, but none raises more intriguing questions...

Healing Rituals Traditions And Magic

Paleopathologists must make their deductions about the antiquity of infectious diseases with limited and ambiguous data however, their conclusions must be consistent with modern biomedical knowledge. Infectious diseases have affected human evolution and history in complex and subtle ways. Endemic and epidemic diseases may determine the density of populations, the dispersion of peoples, and the diffusion of genes, as well as the success or failure of battles, invasions, and colonization. Thus,...

The Medical Papyri

Unfortunately, except for a few fragmentary medical papyri, the texts used for teaching the art of medicine in the Houses of Life have been lost. The eight surviving medical papyri were composed between about 1900 and 1100 b.c.e., but they are probably compilations and copies of older medical texts. In modern translations, the surviving medical papyri constitute only about two hundred printed pages. Remedies and case histories taken from the Ebers, Smith, and Kahun papyri provide the most...

The Chinese Cultural Sphere

Although the nations surrounding China were heavily influenced by Chinese medical philosophy, the direction of exchange is sometimes obscure. Shared medical traditions have different creation myths in each state within the Chinese cultural sphere. For example, in Korea, the invention of moxa and stone acupuncture needles was attributed to Tan Gun, the legendary founder of that nation. Many medicinal substances were exported from Korea to China, before Korea exported Chinese medicine to Japan....

Medicine In The Roman World

The Roman Empire was a complex and vigorous combination of Greek and Roman cultural elements, forged through centuries of war. Originally a republic of yeoman farmers, rather than merchants and adventurers like the Greeks, Roman citizens retained a preference for the practical over the abstract and a tendency to idealize the pastoral life even as they constructed cities unprecedented in size and complexity. They excelled in the arts of warfare and administration, as well as architecture,...

The Americanization of Old World Medicine

The stories told by Columbus and other early explorers about the discovery of a New World may have seriously challenged European ideas about the nature of the world and its peoples, plants, and animals. But in a remarkably short time, Europeans managed to absorb and adapt reports of the exploration, conquest, and settlement of the Americas into both their biblical belief system and their universal sense of entitlement. Having heard stories of the Americas as a virtual Garden of Eden, many...

Ayurvedic Medicine The Science Of Life

Ayurveda, the learned system that forms the basis of the traditional medicine widely practiced in India today, is called ''the science of life.'' The practitioner who has come to understand the science of life is known as the vaidya. The physician, the medicine, the attendant, and the patient constitute the four pillars of Ayurvedic medicine. The task of the physician was to exercise good judgment about his duties, the attendant was expected to prepare medicines and perform nursing duties, and...

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis

The life of Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865) encompasses elements of heroism and tragedy more appropriate to treatment by a novelist than a historian. But some historians have argued that Semmelweis's contributions to medical history have been grossly exaggerated, because mortality from childbed fever actually increased after his work was published. Moreover, Semmelweis was all but forgotten by the time the doctrine of antisepsis was accepted. It is true that both Semmelweis and Holmes had...

Midwives And Medical

Of course, puerperal fever was not always an epidemic disease and childbirth did not always fall within the province of medical men. While women were almost universally excluded from the medical profession, the province of midwifery was once exclusively theirs. Until very recent times, childbirth was considered a natural, rather than a medical event. When labor began, a woman remained at home and sent for her female friends, relatives, and a midwife. This ''social childbirth'' provided a...

Laughing Gas Ether And Surgical Anesthesia

Despite the wealth of soporific agents available in nature's medical garden, the remarkable products of the eighteenth-century chemical revolution eventually eclipsed the ancient anodynes. Joseph Priestly (1733-1804), British theologian, educator, writer, and political theorist, is best known as the discoverer of oxygen, but as Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) said of this indefatigable chemist, ''no single person ever discovered so many new and curious substances.'' Most curious of all was the gas...

On Galen And Galenism

No other figure in the history of medicine has influenced concepts of anatomy, physiology, therapeutics, and philosophy as much as Galen, the physician known as the Medical Pope of the Middle Ages and the mentor of Renaissance anatomists and physiologists. Galen left voluminous writings that touch on all the major medical, scientific, philosophical, and religious issues of his time. Contemporary admirers, including his patron the emperor Marcus Aurelius, called him the ''First of Physicians and...

Medical Microbiology and Public Health

Despite the antiquity of concepts that seem to be associated with the germ theory of disease, microbiology was not established as a scientific discipline until the end of the nineteenth century. In the process, scientists and medical reformers often cast their arguments in terms of an opposition between contagion theory and miasma theory. Although the miasma theory of disease was the primary stimulus to the public health campaigns of the nineteenth century, closer inspection of the evolution...

Bubonic Plague

Astrologers blamed the Black Death on a malign conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. Epidemiologists have traced the cause of epidemic plague to a catastrophic conjunction of Yersinia pestis, fleas, and rats. A brief overview of the complex ecological relationships of microbes, fleas, rodents, and human beings will help us understand the medieval pandemics, the waves of plague that continued well into the seventeenth century, and the status of plague today. Studying the components of this...

Medical Sects

The first wave of medical sectarianism in nineteenth-century America included Hydropaths, Thomsonians, Eclectics, Physio-Medicalists, Eclectics, and Homeopaths. Despite differences in their medical theories and therapeutic systems, members of these sects agreed that the allopaths, or so-called regular doctors, were the most dangerous quacks of all. Unorthodox practitioners saw themselves as reformers, healers, revolutionaries, professionals, and members of new philosophical schools, not as...

Edward Jenner Cowpox And Vaccination

Edward Jenner (1749-1823) was 13 years old when he was apprenticed to a physician. He obtained a respectable medical degree from St. Andrews, but preferred the life of country doctor to a fashionable London practice. Although he was often described as modest in both professional ambitions and intelligence, his mind was lively enough to maintain a lifelong friendship with the distinguished anatomist John Hunter (1728-1793). Thanks to a study of the rather nasty reproductive strategy of the...

Chinese Medicine Classical Traditional And Modern

Until recently, Western historians of science and medicine generally ignored China, except for a few exotic items and inventions that could be rationalized as crude precursors of technologies brought to fruition in the West, such as gunpowder and printing. Fortunately, the work of Joseph Needham, Nathan Sivin, Paul Unschuld, and other scholars has helped redefine the place of Asian studies in the global history of science and medicine. Scholars have suggested that a fundamental difference...

Diseases In The Americas

The high civilizations of the Americas provide some specific focus for analysis of the impact of the earliest European intrusions, but the effect on other native peoples is more difficult to assess because of the diffuse web of contacts and the great diversity of populations, cultures, and environments. Speculative generalizations continue to arise, as do detailed studies of particular regions and peoples. Still, even the total population and settlement patterns of pre-Contact America are...

Thomas Sydenham The English Hippocrates

Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) epitomized the reaction of the clinician to abstract and speculative medicine and the pretensions of physicians who behaved as if their scientific research was more significant than medicine practiced at the bedside of the patient. When scientific medicine was generally carried out in the autopsy room, patients with long, lingering illnesses might well frustrate a physician who was overly devoted to his research. Like Hippocrates, Sydenham believed that it was the...

Medical Education And Practice

The processes that led to the establishment of medicine as a profession based upon a formal education, standardized curriculum, licensing, and legal regulation were set in motion in the Middle Ages. Of course, laws differed from place to place, as did enforcement and the balance of power between unofficial healing and legally sanctioned medicine. Law codes might specify the nature of the contract between patient and doctor and the penalties and fines for particular errors. Physicians could be...

Surgery Anatomy And Dissection

Perhaps the most striking aspect of ancient Indian medicine was the range of surgical interventions and the level of success claimed by the disciples of Susruta and Caraka. Vedic myths speak of remarkable operations on men and gods, such as a cure for impotence achieved by transplanting the testes of a ram to the afflicted god Indra. Ayurvedic texts describe more prosaic but still formidable operations such as cesarean section, lithotomy (removal of bladder stones), couching the cataract,...

Louis Pasteur

Microbe hunting was not uncommon in the first-half of the nineteenth century, and Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was not the first to argue that infectious diseases were caused by germs, but his work was of paramount importance in demonstrating the relevance of germ theory to infectious disease, surgery, hospital management, agriculture, and industry. Pasteur's work illuminated many areas of the nineteenth-century science, including stereochemistry, fermentation, biogenesis, the germ theory of...

Enlightenment Philosophy And Medical Reform

Although elaborate systems fascinated many eighteenth-century physicians, this period also produced pragmatic reformers who realized that one could not heal sailors and soldiers or peasants and workers with learned speculations. Social and medical reformers, inspired by the Enlightenment belief that it was possible to improve the human condition through the application of reason to social problems, turned their attention to public health and preventive medicine. In the eighteenth century, to an...

The Great Sages Of Islamic Medicine

Although medieval physicians, whether Muslims, Jews, or Christians, generally assumed that Galenism was a complete and perfect system, the great sages of Islamic medicine are of interest in their own right, not just in terms of their role in preserving classical medicine. Latin translations of the works of a few authors, including Rhazes, Avicenna, Albucasis, and Averroes, were most influential in Europe, but the Arabic works of many other scholars held a place in the Muslim world that had no...

The Three Celestial Emperors Fu Hsi Shen Nung And Huang Ti

History yields to mythology in accounts of the Three Celestial Emperors, who are revered as the founders of Chinese civilization. Fu Hsi, who is said to have reigned about 2000 b.c.e., is the legendary founder of China's first dynasty. His most important inventions included writing, painting, music, the original eight mystic trigrams, and the yin-yang concept. The I Ching or Canon of Changes, honored as the most ancient of Chinese books, is ascribed to Fu Hsi. The invention of the fundamental...

From Leprosy To Hansens Disease

More than any other disease, leprosy demonstrates the difference between the biological nature of illness and the attributes ascribed to the sick. Indeed, it is fair to say that leprosy and Hansen's disease (the modern name for true leprosy) stand for different ideas more than different diseases. The word leper is still commonly used to mean one who is hated and shunned by society. Medieval attitudes towards the leper were based on biblical passages pertaining to ''leprosy,'' a vague term...

Harveys Paradoxical Influence Therapy By Leech And Lancet

Harvey's work opened up new fields of research and ignited violent controversies, but it certainly did not threaten the livelihood of phle-botomists. While provoking new arguments about the selection of appropriate sites for venesection, the discovery of the circulation seemed to stimulate interest in bloodletting and other forms of depletion therapy. Not even Harvey seemed to worry about the compatibility, or incompatibility, of therapeutic bloodletting and the concept of a closed, continuous...

Suggested Readings

Women, Health, and Medicine in America. A Historical Handbook. New Brunswick, NJ Rutgers University Press. Ashley, J. A. 1976 . Hospitals, Paternalism, and the Role of the Nurse. New York Teachers College Press. Aveling, J. H. 1967 . English Midwives Their History and Prospects. London Elliott. Reprint of the 1872 edition. Aveling, J. H. 1977 . The Chamberlens and the Midwifery Forceps, Memorials of the Family, and an Essay on the Invention of the Instrument. New York...

Drug Lore And Dietetics

According to the Nei Ching, a diet balanced in accordance with the fivefold system of correspondences will promote health and longevity, strengthen the body, and drive out disease. The first remedies were to be found among the herbs, trees, plants, and animals that served as foods. But medical theory and folklore taught that normally harmless foods could be dangerous under special circumstances, such as pregnancy. For example, if a pregnant woman consumed the meat of a hare, the child would be...

Hippocrates And The Hippocratic Tradition

Nursing Traditions

Many of the early Greek philosophers and medical writers have been largely forgotten, but the name Hippocrates ca. 460-360 b.c.e. has become synonymous with the phase ''Father of Medicine.'' The establishment of medicine as an art, a science, and a profession of great value and dignity has been associated with the life and work of Hippocrates. Yet surprisingly little is known about his life. Indeed, some historians insist that Hippocrates was neither the author of the Hippocratic collection nor...

Surgery

In contrast to India, surgery generally remained outside the domain of China's scholarly, elite medicine. Presumably, reluctance to mutilate the body and the lack of dissection-based anatomy inhibited the development of surgery in China, but such obstacles are not necessarily insurmountable. Indeed, forensic medicine reached a high level of sophistication in China, as indicated by a text known as The Washing Away of Wrongs 1247 , which is considered the world's first treatise on forensic...

Santorio Santorio And The Quantitative Method

All too often, Harvey's success is simplistically attributed to his ingenious use of quantitative methods within a mechanistic framework. But as the career of Santorio Santorio Sanctorius, 1561-1636 indicates, allegiance to the mechanical philosophy and the ability to carry out painstaking experiments and perform precise measurements were not enough to provide meaningful answers to very different kinds of questions. Many seventeenth-century scientists welcomed the idea of extending medical...

Hammurabis Code Of Laws

When the Greek historian Herodotus visited Babylonia in the fifth century b.c.e., he reached the remarkable conclusion that the Babylonians had no doctors. The sick, he said, were taken to the marketplace to seek advice from those who had experienced similar illnesses. This story proves only that we should not take the tales told by tourists too seriously. As we have seen, Mesopotamia had a complex medical tradition. Both the empirical and the magical approach to healing were well established,...

Andreas Vesalius On The Fabric Of The Human Body

Vesalius With Cadaver

Just as Copernicus and Galileo revolutionized ideas about the motions of the earth and the heavens, Andreas Vesalius 1514-1564 transformed Western concepts of the structure of the human body. Vesalius' great treatise, The Fabric of the Human Body De humani corporis fabrica , appeared in 1543, the year in which Nicolaus Copernicus 1473-1543 published the text that placed the sun, rather than the earth, at the center of the universe On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres . Vesalius was heir...

Womans Nature And Women Doctors

The ''Woman Question'' was the theme of endless books by nineteenth-century physicians, scientists, and philosophers. Using so-called scientific arguments to rationalize and legitimate traditional social and economic patterns, doctors portrayed themselves as scientists with special knowledge of female physiology. American physicians argued that women were condemned to weakness and sickness, because female physiology, including the menstrual cycle, was inherently pathological. In the 1870s,...

The Medical Humanists

The Scientific Revolution is generally thought of as the great transformation of the physical sciences that occurred during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and is primarily associated with Nicolaus Copernicus 1472-1543 , Johannes Kepler 1571-1630 , Galileo Galilei 1564-1642 , and Isaac Newton 1642-1727 . Some scholars have tried to explore the problem of why the Scientific Revolution occurred in Europe in the seventeenth century, rather than in China or Islamic areas, which reached a...