The History of Medicine

The history of medicine was static for many centuries and picked up in latter generations, simply because many people in ancient and Medieval times, and even beyond, blamed spirits for causing ailments. The history of medicine in the ancient world reads basically like a history of religion, until one reaches the Greco-Roman period, during which doctors began to ascribe illnesses to natural causes.

The history of medicine began to move forward with the Greek doctor Hippocrates, author of the famous oath, who was the first diagnostician. He believed that illnesses were caused by observable phenomena.

The Romans, with their obsession with hygiene, advanced the history of medicine with their construction of public baths and sophisticated sewage systems. Although Roman doctors often used methods and remedies that seem primitive by today’s standards, they continued Hippocrates’ tradition in the history of medicine of diagnosis and examination rather than reliance on the supernatural.

The Greek doctor, Galen, born in 131 CE, used even more sophisticated treatments and diagnosis. He believed that most illnesses were caused by an imbalance of these four elements: blood, blood bile, yellow bile, and phlegm and he prescribed medicines accordingly.

The Medieval era did not contribute much to the history of medicine, apart from the infamous leeches used for bleeding and a host of home cures. It wasn’t until 1749 that the history of medicine would be as focused on prevention as cure when Edward Jenner invented the smallpox vaccine. In 1822, Louis Pasteur discovered that germs caused disease, and this was a major breakthrough in the history of medicine that caused his name to be used in connection with pasteurized milk.

Alexander Flemming discovered pencillin accidentally when he noticed that a mold growing on his plates that contained staphyloccus killed the bacteria. Penicillin forever changed the history of medicine. Jonas Salk discovered the importance of Vitamin C in preventing colds, leading people days to stock up on cartons of orange juice in winter.

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