History of Medicine - Complete notes

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Prehistoric and Aboriginal Medicine
Prehistoric people were:
Nomads ­ meaning that they had no fixed home and they moved around
They were hunter-gatherers ­ they got all their food without farming
They lived in small groups without complicated political arrangements
They had very simple levels of technology ­ spears, bows and arrows, axes,
knives and scrapers all made from wood, bone and stone.
They had no system of writing so nothing was recorded ­ most of what we
know of prehistoric people comes from skeletons.
Trephening was a process where circles in the skull were removed. We do not know
why this occurred but there are four theories why:
The holes were made so the skulls could be used as drinking vessels ­
unlikely as the liquid would come out of the eyes
They were cut into children's skulls and those who survived were thought to
have great magic power. When the person died the bits of skull were used
as charms ­ Wrong, no children's skulls were found with evidence of
Used to people who had skull injuries, epilepsy or headaches - likely as
operations are still done today where bits of the skull is removed if the
brain is swollen
To release evil spirits from the body ­ likely as prehistoric people believed
in spirits and the supernatural.
To understand Prehistoric people, we can study Australian Aborigines. This is
because their hunter-gatherer, nomadic way of life was seen to be similar to how
prehistoric people would have lived.
Aborigines had little technology and they did not know how to read or write and
still used spirits, gods and myths to explain the world that they did not
understand. This meant that Aborigines had two ways of healing or treating sick
or injured people:
Spiritual ways: They believed in bad and good spirits and danced and
chanted to them to protect their tribes and look after the sick. If the
patient did not get better, the medicine man was not blamed but the patient
was blamed for upsetting the spirits.
Common sense ways: They recognised that some things could be cured using
nature e.g. broken arms were set in clay, burns treated with sap from trees,

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Egyptian Medicine
How did life in Egypt affect medicine?
The rich could afford doctors to look after them. These doctors spent much
of their lives trying to improve their understanding of medicine and health
The rich also employed specialist craftsmen like metal workers to make
tools or jewellery. They also made fine bronze instruments for doctors so
Egyptian doctors worked with more sophisticated tools.
Egyptians had wide spread trade links therefore they could get new herbs
and plants from Africa, India and China.…read more

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They used simple surgery such as removing cysts and covered cuts with
willow leaves and bark ­ we now know it to be an antiseptic.
Public Health in Ancient Greece
In Ancient Greece the idea of having a healthy lifestyle to maintain a healthy
body was very popular. The Greeks believed that eating and drinking well helped
to keep your body healthy and exercise was also an important part of people's
Alexandria is a city in Egypt.…read more

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Others were healed by the strength of their belief in the healing power of
the god Asclepios.
The main change of ideas in Greek people was that they began to think of more
natural causes for disease, more rational explanations instead of only the fault of
the gods and spirits.
The Four Humours
The theory of the four humours was first put forward by Aristotle but was
later developed by Hippocrates.…read more

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Roman Medicine
Public health is the measures taken by a government to look after the health
of its people
The Romans built:
Aqueducts ­ they transported water to buildings
Bathhouses ­ they were cheap to visit and encouraged personal hygiene
Public toilets ­ they were flushed clean with running water
Drainage systems ­ they carried sewage and waste away from the cities
The Romans believed that the following things were the causes of disease:
Bad smells or bad air
Bad water
Swamps and marshes
Being…read more

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The collapse of the Roman Empire
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe was plunged into chaos
Medical libraries were destroyed
Rulers spent money on armies and defences rather than public health
There was less travel ­ less sharing of knowledge
Training of doctors was abandoned
Galen's books were hidden for safety
When the Roman Empire collapsed the Catholic Church was the only strong
organisation to survive.…read more

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Medieval Medicine
Surgery in the Middle Ages
Surgery performed in the Middle Ages was limited, painful and often fatal
Two different groups of people performed surgery at the time:
Barber-Surgeons were barbers who cut people's hair and also performed
some surgery. They learnt surgery as a trade and so had no medical training
at all but were the only kind of surgeon that poor people could afford
Surgeons who had medical training from the great universities of Europe.…read more

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They provided nursing, clean and quiet conditions, food, warmth and
sometimes surgery.…read more

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The Black Death
The black death came to Britain in 1348 and killed between a third and a
half of the population
The disease manifested itself through fever, vomiting, headaches and buboes
in the armpit or groin
After a few days the victim either recovered or developed dark bruising all
over the body and died
We now know that there are two types of plague:
Pneumonic plague ­ spread by sneezing
Bubonic plague ­ spread by fleas
People thought that the plague was caused by:…read more

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The Renaissance
Renaissance means `The rebirth' - It was the beginning of old idea's being
Advances in printing and art meant that doctors were better able to
produce records of their work and make books for others to be able to
learn from.…read more


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