Medicine, Physick, and Surgery
Late Middle Ages, and Renaissance
This is a quick survey and overview, not an exhaustive treatise.
The major focus is 15th-16th Centuries
Neolithic – Egyptian and earlier bodies had splints on fractures
Craniotomy for concussions, goes back 8,000 years
Ötzi and his acupuncture-point tattoos, and medicinal plants
Gods dominated disease theory – cause of disease being some “sin”
Empirical doctors, applying herbal and other treatments
Spiritual doctors, using “magic”
Surgeons, from both professions
Strong grounding in physical treatment
BUT, magical / non-rational vs disease
Beginnings of rational thought / logical reasoning – Not just about medicine
Hippocrates -- “I’ve got a start, you carry on” gets corrupted into dogma
Dioscorides – actually practiced in Rome – Materia Medica
Galen (actually Greek living in Rome) – beginnings of anatomical study
Couldn’t dissect humans, so worked on animals
Again, knew perfectly well that his animals weren’t exactly the same as humans. However, his caveats and qualifications get corrupted into MORE dogma.
Preservation of Greco-Roman knowledge through the Dark Ages
Beginnings of some research and discoveries as well.
Famous physician – Al Zahrawi, latinized to Albucasis
Situation, by the 1400s
Three Branches of Health Care
Return / Resurrection of Ancient Knowledge
Translation of Arabic discoveries, and of Greco-Roman materials
Medical schools in Italy, France, and elsewhere
Beginnings of Empirical study
University-trained, upper-crust if not upper-class
Learned in Wisdom of the Ancients
Astrology, herbs, Hippocrates, Galen, et al.
Examines, diagnoses, and prescribes
Generally DOESN’T get hands dirty
Tradesman (or woman) who’s undergone an apprenticeship
Field of knowledge is herbs and remedies, and the compounding of medicines
In addition to herbal medicine, there is some chemical (or alchemical) material being used.
Dabbled somewhat in midwifery and surgery. Also dispensed medical advice, and patent medicines.
Again, a tradesman – apprenticed anywhere from 7 to 14 years
In places like England and France, certified by sitting for a board of the College of Surgeons
Widely variable in skill, training, and social class
Mountebanks and itinerant tooth-pullers
Military and Court Surgeons
Area of expertise is physical problems, and the repair thereof.
Small-town barber-surgeon – major business is going to be haircuts and shaves, with the occasional bleeding, purging, or tooth-drawing
Military surgeon – equivalent to a modern trauma surgeon. Has to deal with everything from bullets to bill-hooks.
Ship’s surgeon – will be packing some physick in the chest, since nearest physician or apothecary’s possibly on the other side of the ocean
Medical theory of the times
Transition, ca 500-300 BCE, from superstition to rational thought / logical analysis
Four Bodily Humours
Blood: Hot and Moist
Phlegm: Cold and Moist
Melancholy aka Black Bile: Cold and Dry
Choler aka Yellow Bile: Hot and Dry
Imbalance in Humours can cause illness; treatment involves re-balancing.
Treatment with herbs or chemicals – treat by sympathy, using medicines that push the condition to its conclusion; or treat by antipathy, using medicines to fight the condition
Excess of phlegm, for example, might be treated by hot, dry herbs.
Physical treatment – bleeding for fevers, blistering for phlegm, etcetera
Medicines – some worked, some didn’t
Yarrow – Comfrey – Willow Bark – St John’s Wort – Clove Oil – Quinine / Chinchona – compounds like Laudanum
Items with strong physiological effects, but hazardous – Wormwood – Belladonna – Tobacco
Items of dubious effect – lettuce juice (wild yes, domestic no) – oddball items like pigeon poop or deer’s antler
Experimentation, vs “Wisdom”
With no IVs or hypodermics, what does one do?
4 ways – Inhaled / Sniffed; Swallowed; Skin Absorption; Per Rectum
Example of Tobacco: Inhaled to purge Phlegm; Swallowed as a Vomit; Poultice for stings and “green wounds”; Injected as a Helminthocide
Anesthesia / Pain Control
Bite Sticks and Restraints
Dwale / Soporific Sponge
Cleanliness / Infection
Microscopes 1699, Germ Theory of Disease, mid 19th C
Empirical evidence: Clean = good
Styptics, Astringents, & Antiseptics
Drains and Infection
(Much more useful than this small class outline)
Quick References: Wikipedia, with doses of Salt as Appropriate
Culpeper, Nicholas, Culpeper's Complete Herbal and English Physician originally 1640s (Paperback - Mar 1987)
Galen, 131-201CE, On the Natural Faculties. Translated by A. J. Brock. University of Adelaide, at http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/g/galen/g15nf/ Galen, while more of a theorist than Hippocrates, does display analytical thinking about medicine, rather than the magical thinking of pre-rational medicine.
Hippocrates, 460-377BCE, Works. Translated by Francis Adams. Available at the University of Adelaide, http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/h/hippocrates/ Hippocrates runs to practical applications for various ailments.
Longrigg, James, 1934-, Greek rational medicine [electronic resource] : philosophy and medicine from Alcmaeon to the Alexandrians. The link for the book is http://www.netLibrary.com/urlapi.asp?action=summary&v=1&bookid=79901. Book covers the development of medicine in Greece from pre-rational, deriving from Egyptian and Babylonian sources, through classical-period beginnings of rational practice.
Magner, Lois N., 1943-, A History Of Medicine. Second Edition, Publisher: Taylor & Francis, Pub date: c2005.
National Institutes of Health, “Greek Medicine from the Gods to Galen” (2002). Located at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/greek/index.html. This is an online exhibit giving a brief overview of Greek medicine, starting with divine / pre-rational concepts and progressing forward.
Paré, Ambroise, 1510-1590, The Apologie and Treatise of AmbroiseParé. Published by the Classics of Medicine Library, 1984.
Rawcliffe, Carole, Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England. Sutton Illustrated History Paperbacks Paperback - Mar 1998
Woodall, John, The Surgions Mate. Originally published 1617. Current ed. By John Kirkup, 1978.