OCR, History, Medicine, Through, Time, Unit 1 Roman Medicine

Part 4

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  • Created on: 26-08-10 20:02
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Rome's huge empire could only be maintained by a fit and healthy army and
so this provided a motive to improve medical knowledge.
Did not carry out much research as to the cause or cure of disease and
cleverly focused on prevention rather than cure.
Cause and Cure of Disease
Through empirical observation they thought that disease could have been
caused by bad air, bad water, swamps, sewage and bad hygiene. Thus they
considered these ideas when choosing a military camp or a new town, and
attempted to reduce these things in cities they had already built.
The works and ideas of Hippocrates were still used and were backed up by
Galen who wrote about the successes (not failures) of his work ­ again
showing the empirical observation methods.
Born in AD 129. When young he worked as an doctor to gladiators and so
learnt about the human body and anatomy through the wounds (dissection
was banned).
He went to Rome and was successful enough to be made doctor to the
Emperor's son giving him the place in the Roman hierarchy to publish
He had studied anatomy when he trained in Alexandria but was no longer
allowed to dissect or even look at a skeleton. He took opportunities such
as the flooding of a cemetery to examine bones.
Instead he dissected animals which led to many errors such as the
importance of "rete mirabile" (blood vessels under the brain) which do not
exist in humans and the belief that the human jaw was made of two bones
like a dog's.
Galen had a huge importance as he built on the ideas of all great doctors
since Hippocrates and published over 100 books which survived and were
believed until the middle ages.
Most importantly he provided a complete theory of medicine, leaving
nothing unexplained, as well as writing about the "creator" occasionally
which fitted in well with Christian and Muslim beliefs.
Dissection was not allowed so unless doctors travelled to Alexandria they
had no knowledge of anatomy.
Galen was vital in the increase of anatomical knowledge and provided a
complete theory for medicine however he assumed that anatomy of animals
was the same to humans.

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Became experts on practical first aid and external surgery through treating
gladiators and soldiers.
Developed Caesarean section to save a baby's life, however the mother
always died.
Still, surgery was limited by lack of antiseptics and anaesthetics.…read more

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The Romans and public health ­ Drained swamps (reduce Malaria), built aqueducts
(plenty of fresh water to wash and drink), built public toilets with flowing water,
public baths kept the rich healthy. Keeping population healthy was important for army
Galen's ideas about physiology, anatomy and treatment ­ used animal dissection
as a means of learning about human anatomy. There were a few errors however
because of differences between humans and animals.…read more


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