Key Individuals and Facts- Prehistoric and Egyptia
- Prehistoric Doctors -Since no written records exist from the prehistoric era, we know little about the doctors of this era. What we do know is that prehistoric people believed that disease had supernatural causes. Doctors were most likely witch-doctors or shamans and probably dealt with more than just medicine. WE can learn this by looking at tribal communities today such as the people of the rainforests and Australian Aborigines.
- Egyptian Doctors - The Ancient Egyptians also believed in supernatural causes of disease, but they thought the body was disturbed in a physical way. So as well as spiritual cures they began to develop practical cures. Due to their advanced written language successes could be passed on to other doctors. The Egyptians made the break from supernatural to physical and created the modern profession of medicine. Imhotep, the Egyptian god of healing, was a doctor.
Key Individuals and Facts - Greek Era
Greek Doctors - Most Greek people would visit the cult of Asklepion when they became ill. They thought the spiritual power of the gods would help heal them. Things began to change when Greek philosophers began to realise that illness had a natural, rather than supernatural, cause.
- Hippocrates - One of the first 'modern' doctors, this philosopher from Kos wrote, 'Sickness is not sent by the gods or taken away by them. It has a natural basis. If we can find the cause, we can find the cure.'
Thus came about the rational thinking of medicine. Combined with the theory of the four humours and the dawn of clinical observation, doctors became skilled and well-trained professionals.
The Oath of Hippocrates
In Ancient Greek times doctors had to swear by this hippocratic oath written by the founding father of medicine, Hippocrates. It ensured they led a healthy, good and spiritual life and never gave poison to patients. Doctors today still take this oath.
The Hippocratic Oath
"I swear by Apollo, Asklepios and by all the gods that I will keep this oath. I will use treatment to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgement but never with a view to injury or wrongdoing. I will not give poison to anybody. I will be pure and holy in my life and practice. I will keep secret anything I see or hear professionally which ought not to be told."
Key Individuals and Facts - Roman Era
Roman Doctors -
Many doctors in Ancient Rome were Greeks, brought to the shores of Italy as slaves. One of the most famous Roman doctors was Galen.
- Galen - Galen was from Pergamum and was taught by his father. After studying at the medical school in Alexandria he practiced his trade at the gladiator schools. Galen pioneered the Theory of Opposites and studied human anatomy in great depth, often using dissected pigs and apes as references.
Romans often neglected the Greeks medical teachings, but Roman era doctors did develop the ideas of bad air and tiny creatures which caused disease. The Romans also developed hospitals and had trained male nurses in the military called 'Medici'.
Key Individuals and Facts - Islamic Era
Islamic Doctors -
After the fall of Rome most of Europe descended into chaos, meaning many medical teachings were ignored and forgotten. However, in the Islamic world teachings learnt from doctors such as Hippocrates and Galen were translated into Arabic and kept alive. The Islamic culture placed emphasis on the importance of cleanliness and by AD 850 Baghdad had a hospital and by AD 931 doctors had to pass an examination to practice their trade.
- Rhazes - Rhazes, born in modern day Iran, was taught medicine by his father and studied at Baghdad. After completing his studies he practiced medicine at the hospitals in Baghdad and Rai. Considering himself the Islamic Hippocrates he wrote many works and promoted the idea of closely observing a patient ad noting all the minor details. Through this practice he was the first doctor to discover the differences between measles and smallpox.
- Avicenna - Avicenna was another Persian doctor who most famously wrote, The Cannon of Medicine. This book taught of contagious and sexually transmitted diseases and also dealt with the practice of quarantine as a method of prevention. It is still used as a reference book today and was a standard in most of medieval Europe and the Islamic world.
Key Individuals and Facts - Medieval Era
Medieval Doctors -
After the fall of Rome and the Ancient World teaching in Europe changed drastically. Tribes controlled Europe and many of the new leaders could not read or write. Only the Roman Catholic Church and in the Eastern Roman Empire did the ancient teachings of medicine stay alive. However, although medicine regressed in general, a few improvements were made.
Medical Schools were established in the following places -
Although these schools provided lectures and later dissection, only the ideas of Galen were taught and to question them was considered heresy. This ended up hindering medical progress for centuries to come. The church particularly likes Galen's ideas due to his belief in a single God.