History of Medicine
by Rit Nosotro
from the Hippocratic Oath to the Renaissance
Trace the History of Medicine from the Greeks and the Hippocratic Oath to the Renaissance
The science of medicine has greatly affected and changed mankind. It has assisted man significantly in enhancing his health and protecting him from ailments. This essay will discuss the history of medicine by reviewing the development of medicine from Ancient Greece to the Renaissance, The Hippocratic Oath, important medical discoveries, and the Biblical perspective.
In ancient Grecian times, Greek philosophers developed the belief that all natural physical ailments could not be explained by the supernatural. They were the first to start this belief and learned men, such as Hippocrates, introduced the method of observing symptoms and lifestyle in order to understand the causes to ailments. This eventually led to a scientific method of observing, creating a hypothesis based on observations, and using experiments to test the hypothesis. Possibly through this observation, the Greeks also believed lived in a balanced lifestyle, which is a common belief today. This belief included refraining from eating too much, reducing stress, regular exercise, and maintenance of cleanliness.
Greek Medicine, not only developed during this time, but spread throughout the entire Roman Empire. At first, the Romans were adverse to these new ideas but with time this sentiment changed greatly, to the point where many Romans studied medicine. The Roman doctor Dioscroides even wrote an entire book on plants with medicinal attributes. The Romans not only adopted, but added to the Greek beliefs.
Unfortunately, during the Middle Ages, much of the Greek and Roman medicinal knowledge was lost; however, after the Dark Ages, and in the years leading to the Renaissance, there became more of a interest in the study of the human anatomy and medicine. However, although the Church valued caring for the sick and needy, it became a restricting factor in the progress of medicine. This was because it inhibited any human dissections or other such activities, as the Christian belief was that there should be respect for the dead. But, as medical schools were being planted during the twelfth and thirteenth century, some human dissections were allowed, in addition to the animal dissections, as students need knowledge of the human anatomy. Students were also required to memorize the works of famous physicians works such as Galen and Dioscroides. After graduation, the graduates were dubbed "doctor". They were normally hired by wealthy families as they were looked upon as being more learned than "healers" such as surgeons and midwives who did not have any formal education.
Also, during this time, in the Asian region, there were also signs of a more scientific approach to medicine. A famous Persian, by the name of Rhazes wrote the first accurate description of the measles and smallpox. Another famous physician was called Avicenna, an Arab, who wrote the Canon of Medicine in which he summed up all his knowledge of meningitis, tetanus, and many more ailments.
Hippocrates was a famous Greek doctor and is well-known for his Oath, known as the Hippocratic Oath. In this oath he states:
"I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant: To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art - if they desire to learn it - without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.This oath has become a code of honor and practice (ethics) for all physicians. According to this oath, a physician is part of a brotherhood of other physicians, where all care for those physicians in need. A physician must act with honour in giving drugs to the sick. He must not take any advantage, whatsoever, of a patient. He is to have integrity and not reveal any private matters regarding a patient's life.
I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.
I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.
Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.
What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.
If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot."
This oath is extremely necessary in protecting both the patient and doctor which is the reason why it is even sworn today. Although the Oath has been modified to fit modern times, (for example, "I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work." This is obviously obsolete and has been modified as many doctors must perform surgical procedures.) the main context of the Oath has been kept the same, that a doctor must have integrity and honesty in all his dealings.
As mentioned previously, there were many medical discoveries that were introduced during the development of medicine. The circulation of blood was discovered (in 1628 by William Harvey) Genetics was also a field that grew immensely in knowledge. However an important invention that assisted in this discovery was the development of the compound microscope, around 1590. Zaccharias Janssen was the first to start the development of this type of microscope. This invention was a major advancement over the simple lens. The compound microscope allowed for greater magnification. This led to the discovery of the use of capillaries eventually led to embryology. The compound microscope also aided the observations of microorganism and bacteria. These observations allowed scientists to observe causes of diseases and through this develop a cure for the disease.
Another important discovery was in 1798, when inoculations were developed. Inoculating a person is the process by which the person is made immune to the disease or virus through applying a weak form of that disease to the person's body. This was an enormous discovery as now it was possible to be protected from horrible diseases such as smallpox.
The final important discovery, to be discussed, is X-rays. X-rays are part of the spectrum of light and are the most powerful. This spectrum of light was discovered by Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen and he continued experimenting with this special light by performing experiments. He discovered that X-rays would go through books, cardboard, wood, and rubber, but not lead. This experimentation led to Marie and Pierre Curie's study of radioactivity. Madam Marie eventually found a practical use for x-rays to locate the breakage in broken bones. This technique is still used today.
A Biblical perspective on medicine is that our bodies are a "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV). Our bodies are weak and, therefore, we must take care of our bodies to the best of our abilities. In the New Testament, Jesus healed the sick We should, likewise, use the God-given intellect to help one another with hygiene and health. However, there is a danger of patients deifying the doctors and Christians should always be aware that the doctors' knowledge is from God. Another danger of having so much medical knowledge is that some people think that it is possible to find anything if it is looked for hard enough. It is also believed that through this search and gain of knowledge one can eventually become God. According to the Bible, this is wrong and is a danger since one can quickly fall into being prideful of his own knowledge. The Bible it also says "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."(Proverbs 16:18)
This essay has discussed the history of medicine by reviewing Ancient Greece Medicine, Hippocrate's Oath, Middle Ages Medicine, and finally Renaissance Medicine, and the Biblical perspective. Medicine is a wonderful tool, given to us by God to take care of our bodies, however we must be careful to not idolize medical knowledge or doctors.
1) Baxevanis, John J. Greece. World Book ed. 2001
2) Barrick, Marc B. Medicine. World Book ed. 2001
3) Yount, Lisa. The History of Medicine. Lucent Books Inc. 2002. San Diego.
4) DeJauregui, Ruth. 100 Medical Milestones That Shaped World History. Blue Books 1998. San Mateo
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