History of Medicine

  • Created by: aforbes02
  • Created on: 06-06-18 16:23

History of Medicine

Ancient Greece

Hippocrates is acknowledged as the father of modern medicine and is believed to have lived between c.460 BC and c.377BC in Ancient Greece. He argued that it was not the Gods who made people unwell and believed in natural causes of disease rather than supernatural ones. His main achievements were the Four Humours, the Hippocratic Oath and his contributions to the ‘Programme for Health’.

The Four Humours is the belief that the body was made up of four humours – blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. These were linked to the four seasons and the four elements and need to be in balance for good health. Treatments developed from the theory aimed at bringing humours into balance – you could get rid of an excess humour by purging, vomiting or blood-letting. The Four Humours presented the idea that diseases had natural causes and popularised clinical observation, but (although it was rational) it was wrong, and they hadn’t correctly identified what was a cause and what was a symptom.

He came up with the Hippocratic Oath, which was sworn by physicians to the Greek gods of healing – it promised to:

  • Uphold patient confidentiality;
  • Work to help the sick;
  • Not to carry out abortions;
  • Not to assist suicide.

The Greeks created the ‘Programme for Health’, which described how to stay in balance through all the seasons:

·         Food in winter – eat as much as possible and drink as little as possible.

·         Food in summer – drink more and eat less.

·         Exercise – long walks before meals; slow in summer, fast in winter.

·         Teeth care – rub teeth inside out with fingers using fine peppermint power and cleaning teeth of food.

·         Hair and face – clean and wash; clean nose and ears with well-perfumed oil and rub body with said oil.

Despite Hippocrates’ belief’s in natural causes, most Ancient Greeks still believed that the supernatural and the Gods were the result of the illness. Temples (called Asclepions) were where people went when they were unwell, in which they would be a part of rituals and would pray to the God of Healing, Asclepios.

Ancient Rome

Galen was a physician who was born in Greece but worked in Rome. He spent 12 years travelling to improve his medical knowledge, including working as a surgeon in a Gladiator school. Similarly to Hippocrates, he believed that illness was caused by an imbalance of the Four Humours and believed in patient observation – however, he also moved on Hippocrates’ thinking by trying to treat rather than diagnose illness. He developed the Theory of Opposites, the idea being that if you had too much phlegm you needed something hot and dry to bring this Humour back into balance.  Galen also discovered that the brain, not the heart, controls the speech; the arteries as well as veins carry blood and that an animal’s anatomy is different from humans. However, he also


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