History: Medicine

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  • Created by: Bonnie
  • Created on: 12-04-14 11:23

Medieval Public Health

  • Medieval people knew the connection between clean living and good health. Occasionally, they even took a bath.
  • Unlike the Romans, Medieval towns didn't have sewers or water pipes. People threw rubbish and human waste into the streets.
  • Monasteries developed systems of public health, including fresh running water, wash rooms and sewers.
  • People realised that a room next to a privy (toilet) was unhealthy, and towns paid 'gongfermers' to clear out the cess pits.
  • During the plague many towns developed quarantine laws, and boarded up the houses of infected people.
  • The first hospitals since Roman times were built, such as St Bart's, in London, in 1123.
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Medieval Doctors

  • Medieval doctors had some medical knowledge from the Greeks and Romans, but much was lost when the Roman Empire collapsed.
  • Schools of medicine were set up in Universities but anatomy 'lectures' were just a doctor reading from a book while a 'prosector' pointed to parts of the body.
  • Medieval doctors would examine the coloursmell and taste of a patient's urine, to guess what they were suffering from.
  • They also thought that bad smells carried disease.
  • Doctors believed in the four humours, which were four bodily fluids. Many cures involved 'balancing' these humours by: bleeding
  • applying leeches
  • or causing vomiting in patients.
  • Superstition increased throughout the period. Peasants prayed to saints to cure toothache, the plague, and ergotism.
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Renaissance Civilisation

  • During the 1400s, Western civilisation changed significantly. Historians call this the Renaissance era, meaning 'rebirth'.
  • The beginning of the Renaissance is often dated from 1453 AD, when Constantinople fell. This drove scholars, with knowledge of Greek and Roman learning, westwards.
  • Artists, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Titian, revolutionised painting. They studied the body in more detail, which improved knowledge of anatomy.
  • Universities began using the Scientific Method. These experiments tested theories about medicine, which was vital for its development.
  • The invention of the printing press allowed these new ideas to spread quickly through Europe.
  • However, although the Renaissance saw an improvement in medical knowledge, many people still rejected these new ideas.
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Renaissance Medical Knowledge

  • Two key practitioners moved medical knowledge forwards. The first was Vesalius.
  • He discovered spermatic vessels and realised the famous doctor Galen could be wrong.
  • Vesalius also said that medical students should perform dissections themselves, saying: "our true book of the human body is man himself."
  • The second important practitioner was William Harvey, who discovered how blood circulated through the body.
  • Others made significant medical advances; Thomas Sydenham insisted doctors should visit the sick, rather than the other way round.
  • In 1683 Anton van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria, but unfortunately no one realised that they caused disease.
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Renaissance Surgery and Treatment

  • Methods of treatment in the Early Modern Age did not change from the Medieval period.
  • People thought they could cure the plague with; leeches, sherry, posies, dried toad, perfume
  • the word abracadabra written in a triangle
  • a lucky hare's foot
  • or pressing a plucked chicken against the plague-sores until the chicken died.
  • In 1796, Edward Jenner discovered that vaccination could prevent disease. He found that infecting people with cowpox protected them from getting smallpox.
  • In 1536 Paré discovered that wounds healed better if treated with a 'soothing digestive' of egg yolk and rose oil.
  • He also used ligatures to tie arteries during amputations, so patients didn’t bleed to death.
  • Paracelsus improved surgical practise. He discovered that laudanum was a painkiller, but as it was a derivative of opium, many people became addicted to it.
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Renaissance Public Health

  • Rats, lice and fleas were a part of people's everyday lives in Early Modern times. It took the plague of 1665 to get the authorities to do something.
  • Early Modern towns were similar to medieval towns. Rubbish and human waste was thrown into the streets.
  • 'Surgeons' examined the dead to work out the extent of the plague.
  • 'Searchers' checked if members of a household had the plague. If so, they shut them up in the house for a month.
  • Bodies were buried at night in huge pits, and mourners were not allowed to attend.
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Renaissance Doctors

  • Most doctors in the early Modern times had little or no training.
  • The most advanced physicians were usually town-based, and well educated. They charged very high fees.
  • Ordinary people only got the medicine they could afford.
  • The people they turned to included:
  • Country Doctors; were cheap but not well-trained.
  • Barber-Surgeons were paid to perform small operations.
  • Apothecaries; were chemists with no medical training.
  • Quacks; were travelling barbers and tooth-pullers, who sold medicines supposed to cure everything.
  • Wise Women; were used for everything from herbs to spells. They were called on to help deliver babies.
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