medicine through time - the renaissance

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'people being able to think for themselves, through questioning and art.'

The works of Hippocrates and Galen: the books were brought back from the Arab world and looked at with fresh eyes, people began questioning the information instead of just quoting it.

Religion: the reformation is the beginning of the protestant church, they changed the ways people viewed religion by translating the bible, simplifying church interiors and making people believe that religion is personal and you can communicate with God yourselves. This made people think for themselves because God can hear your thoughts.

Communication: in 1454 Gutenberg invented the printing press, this meant that books could be printed and people could read for themselves. Also communication developed.

Art: A rebirth in art led to very accurate painting and sculptures. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci dissected bodies to paint and draw them accurately. This led to better knowledge of anatomy.

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Claudius Galen: there are holes in the heart

Vesalius: believed this until 1555

Columbus: 1559 thought that blood moved from one side to the other via the lungs

Fabricius: Identified valves in the veins

William Harvey proved:

  • heart acts as a pump, pumping blood around the body

He proved this by:

  • dissecting cold blooded animals whose heart beat slowly
  • proving that blood had a one-way system by failing to pump liquids the opposite way
  • calculating that the amount of blood going into the arteries each hour was 3 times the weight of a man therefore the same blood in pumped through the body.

This didn't lead to an end in blood letting because: doctors got paid a lot for it; only physicians were educated to know about the new information; resistance to change; no alternative treatments.

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  • he studied at the university in Padua, where there was a renaissance theatre where people could see for themselves. It was circular and tiered.
  • he wrote 'The Fabric of the Human Body' and got it illustrated so students could see the body as they read about it. The printing press (Gutenberg) made this possible.
  • He got the famous artist Titian and his school so illustrate the books, showing layers of the body accurately.
  • Vesalius discovered that some of Galens theories were wrong: The jawbone is made from 1 bone, not 2; the breastbone has 3 parts, not 7; blood does not flow through the septum in the heart because such holes do not exist; humans have a 2-lobed liver, not 5.

In some ways, Versalius was not important:

  • he made no improvement in medical practice
  • his ideas were only adopted by the most high class and educated circles
  • resistance to admit that Galen was wrong

His factors: Art, Technology (press), important individuals (look for yourself attitude), communications.

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  • women were not allowed to go to university or become physicians
  • Peter Chamberlan invented forceps as a secret invention
  • when male physicians found out about the forcepts they decided only men should use them because they had the anatomical knowledge to do so
  • male midwives, eg William Hunter, were taking over.


  • set up in 1645
  • was a group of people who discussed new ideas and discoveries in science
  • the king at the time attended the meetings which gave the society high status
  • more people tried to create new inventions to be a part of the society
  • the group communicated new ideas and discoveries, improving people scientific knowledge of medicine
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  • most universities were outside England
  • doctors trained in hospitals to get practical experience
  • William Hunter set up a medical school in London, 6 days a week over 3 months
  • supernatural methods rarely used (inc. urine chart which was actually helpful)
  • William Hunter encouraged studemts to experiment and carefully observe symptoms
  • Henry VIII closed monastries in 1536 so their hospitals closed too, some town councils took them over and employed nurses to look after the sick and do heavy work such as washing, cleaning and cooking
  • some amputations now took place in hospitals although their main aim was still to provide comfort for the sick
  • WOMEN - treated the sick in the family
  • APOTHECARY - sold and mixed medicines but weren't supposed to treat the sick
  • WEALTHY LADIES - provided care for local families
  • QUACKS - healers with no training, many just in it for the money
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