Medicine through time notes

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Galen was Greek he lived in the Roman era.
· He trained as a doctor at the Asclepion then at Alexandria. But by then dissection on
humans had been banned for religious reasons so only skeletons could be studied.
· But as a doctor to gladiators Galen could increase his knowledge of human anatomy
while treating wounds.
· When Galen moved to Rome the study of skeletons were banned, however he
managed to study bones of criminals and bodies washed out of cemeteries.
· He was deprived of human bodies so dissected animals instead this led to many
mistakes in his theories He described the liver as the wrong shape.
· He often only recorded successful experiments and saw what he wanted to see
· He supported the ideas of Hippocrates and increased his own knowledge of anatomy.
· He followed Hippocrates' ideas of observation and believed in the theory of the four
humours (black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm) when they were out of balance
this made you ill. He developed the theory of the opposites to balance out the humours
e.g. if you were cold you would eat something hot.
· He also supported Hippocrates' ideas of ethics and how surgeons should treat
· During the Middle ages his ideas remained popular because he wrote over 100
books, many survived the fall of Rome and this made his reputation last and ideas
continued to be believed. His books were an aid that taught medical students. He
didn't stress the polytheistic (more than 1 god) so he didn't offend other religions. This
was why his work was copied and survived.
· Many people believed if you were sick it was God's punishment, or evil spirits had
possessed you, to treat this they often did trephining on the skull to release spirits,
they prayed and used potions and herbs.
· The people who took over the Roman Empire believed more strongly in superstition
and magic, the public health system collapsed with the empire and book and libraries
were destroyed. Medical knowledge in Europe was lost, new ideas couldn't be
spread as trade and travel declined.
· The Christian church reestablished itself, as trade picked up writings of Galen and
Hippocrates were translated back, however many books were missing. The church
gradually accepted their work. They forbid changes to their ideas and taught that they
were the absolute truth. The church was strongly opposed to dissection. Medieval
doctors relied on astrology and astronomy they believed stars and planets caused
disease. This led to regress in medicine.
· Local monks prescribed herbal medicines. Wise men and Wise women used
traditional cures and barber surgeon offered advice.
· The Black Death was a series of plagues that first swept Europe in the 1340's.
· Two illnesses were involved pneumonic plague spread by coughs and sneezes
(airborne) and bubonic plaguespread by rat flea bites. Rats were carried overseas
on ships.
· It arrived in Britain in 1348 victims were struck down suddenly and most died.
· It affected labour market and land ownership, the county couldn't raise armies, it was
responsible for abandonment of villages.
· Bubonic plague hit first symptoms included headaches, exhaustion and high
temperatures, followed by big swellings in the groin armpit and neck. Many died a
week after contracting it.

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Then there was pneumonic plague which was more deadly, it attacked the lungs and
made it more painful to breathe. Symptoms included coughing up blood and killed
within a few days.
· It was believed to be a judgement from God or caused by the planets, some thought it
was caused by foul air and Jews.
· To "cure" it people became flagellants and whipped themselves. Doctors used herbs
and all over body suits which may have filtered out airborne germs and fleas.…read more

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The great fire of London sterilised large areas by burning germs in 1666.
· Public health was worse. Religious differences led to wars.
· Populations increased putting more strain on clean water and sewage disposal.
· Warfare used up resources, destroyed crops creating poverty.
· Homelessness and the disabled put pressure on parish structures.
· Naval power improved communications but it meant diseases common in Europe like
cholera were spread around.…read more

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In1857 by accident Louis Pasteur discovered the link between germs and disease.
· Joseph Lister developed a better microscope that magnified x1000, this meant better
· Originally Pasteur became interested in microorganisms when a brewing company
asked for his help (communication) to find out why alcohol was going bad. He
developed a theory that germs caused the problem.
· He participated in a competition at an academy of science to disprove the theory of
spontaneous generation (organisms are a result of decay).…read more

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People's attitudes were that they wanted to reduce the cost of looking after the poor
not increase it, rate payers, business men and politicians didn't like being told they
would have to pay for reform.…read more

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They were also ineffective against stronger microbes.
· Alexander Fleming was first to discover the drug penicillin, which prevented bacteria
· During ww1 he became interested in how to treat wounds that became infected he
noted that antiseptics used weren't very effective.
· In 1922 he found that lysozyme (found in tears) killed some germs but not those
causing disease and infection.…read more

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This made the government take notice of the health problems of the poor as some of
them were soldiers and weren't capable of defending their country.
· There was pressure for social change.
· The blitz in 1940 prompted the government to set up the emergency medical service,
this offered free treatment to air raid casualties, and it proved successful.
· After ww2 people looked for improvements in society.
· This led to the labour government coming into power.…read more

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This made it possible to experiment.
· Ww1 helped medicine because it allowed doctors and surgeons to develop their
· It also hindered it because 14000 doctors were taken away from normal work to help
with war.
· Medical research was hindered.…read more

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Settlements such as army camps were sited in healthy places (not near swamps). In
other places marshes were drained (Julius Caesar drained the Codetan swamp near
Rome), which reduced malaria.
· They had their own version of the Greek's Programme for Health. The doctor Alderotti
advised people to stretch their limbs, wash their face, clean their teeth, exercise etc.
· Guy de Chauliac (the Pope's doctor) realised the importance of a good diet, and that
a poor diet made people more vulnerable to the plague.…read more

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When the Boer War revealed that half the population were unfit for military service, the
government accepted that it had to pass laws to improve the situation of the individual
· In 1906 local councils were told to provide free school meals for poor children.
· In 1907 school medical examinations were ordered for all children (among these
examinations were those of the 'nitty nurse').
· In 1908 Oldage pensions were introduced.…read more


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