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History of Medicine

Medicine is described as the science and art of preventing illness and disease, treating illness, injury, and disease, and healing. Today, medicine involves health science, biomedical research, and technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury, disease, and illness for individuals and society. Medication, diet, treatment, surgery, and therapy are all important to treatment.

Before the general acceptance of scientific medicine, healing arts were practiced in many non scientific forms through the early use of plants and herbs. The practice of medicine can be traced back several thousand years in different cultures. Early shamans, apothecaries, and medicine men prescribed plants as internal medicine, rubbed plants on skin, and burned plants and roots to create smoke to be inhaled, and performed spiritual rituals to exorcise demons, promote health and cure illnesses. In each culture, knowledge of medicine was collected and passed down through generations.

The earliest recorded surgery was performed in Egypt around 2750 BC. The Egyptians cultivated knowledge and methods in anatomy, public health, and clinical diagnostics. The Edwin Smith Papyrus is one of the world’s oldest medical literatures and part of an ancient Egyptian trauma surgery textbook from around 3000 BC. and describes cures, ailments and anatomical study.

From India there is evidence of prescriptions of herbs in use for an assortment of ailments in the Atharvaveda, a sacred Hindu text from the Early Iron Age. The first evidence of scientific medicine came from the Ayurveda texts from around 400 BC. Ayurveda is defined as the study of life. The knowledge of traditional herbal practices were applied to theories to establish therapies. Connections to Ayurveda are found later in early Buddism and Jainism works. Philosophies established concluded that health and sickness are not predestined and health could be improved and people could live longer by human endeavor. There was early development of diverse types of surgery including rhinoplasty and cataract surgery and mental illness was addressed.

In China, Taoist physicians observed illness and sought individual and environmental causes and developed relative principles to create a large volume of traditional medicine. These causative principles classified as material, essential, or mystical, were associated with the natural order of the universe.

The practice of observing patients was formed in Cnidus in 700 BC. The ancient Greeks founded a humoral medicine system. They believed in a balance of humours within the body. Early surgeries were recorded including opening the abdominal cavity to remove abscesses or foreign objects. Patients were sedated with substances such as opium.

The physician Hippocrates who lived in the era of 400 BC is considered by many as the father of modern medicine. Hippocrates created or contributed to more than seventy early works known as The Hippocratic Corpus. Hippocrates categorized illnesses using labels still in use today such as acute, chronic, endemic and epidemic. His works also show the first use in medicine of the terms "exacerbation, relapse, paroxysm, peak, and convalescence." Hippocrates principles are still used to teach pulmonary medicine and surgery. He was the first documented chest surgeon and wrote the Hippocratic Oath used by physicians today.

The Islamic civilization and Muslim physicians contributed significantly to medicine in anatomy, ophthalmology, physiology, surgery, and the pharmaceutical sciences. They established some of the first hospitals and their systems were duplicated in Europe. They were influenced by and broadened the knowledge of Greek and Roman practices. Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi was the first physician to make regular use of alcohol in medicine. He recorded information on measles and smallpox that was further developed in Europe.

While there are many other contributions from other cultures, modern medicine advanced in the 19th century. New laboratory practices, technology, equipment, and advancements in chemistry lead to bacteriology and virology.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to discover microorganisms using a microscope in 1676, leading to microbiology.

Before the germ theory of disease, in 1847 Ignaz Semmelweis discovered he could remarkably reduce the death rate of new mothers by requiring physicians to wash their hands before attending to women in childbirth.

Gregor Mendel published his studies on pea plants, forming genetics, and later known as Mendel's laws.

Paul Ehrlich discovered the first antibiotic, arsphenamine in 1908.

Roentgen's X-ray was put into use with the electrocardiograph to monitor the internal body.

In 1953 Watson and Crick discovered DNA structure which advanced molecular biology and created modern genetics.

Louis Pasteur revolutionized medicine by confirming the germ theory. He is credited with inventing pasteurization, and with Robert Koch founded bacteriology. Koch discovered tubercle bacillus in 1882 and the cholera bacillus in 1883 and created Koch's postulates. Vaccines were discovered by Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur.

Awareness of the value of public health practices and acceptance by the populations have greatly contributed to stopping the spread of illness and disease. In addition the development of nutritional knowledge and implementing improved diets has aided in prevention and better health.

Medications have become more prevalent in modern medicine. The early use of plants, herbs, and other elements eventually helped develop pharmacology. Many drugs are derived from plants such as atropine, ephedrine, aspirin, digoxin, taxol, hyoscine, and more. Pharmacology is increasingly refined as biotechnology helps the development of drugs to target certain physiological processes in consideration of side effects.

The study of DNA and Genomics is furthering the knowledge of medicine. Many genetic disorders have been traced to the culprit genes further developing molecular biology and genetics.

Clinical diagnostics have advanced early treatment of many illnesses and diseases curing some and prolonging life. Clinical laboratory sciences apply laboratory techniques to diagnose disease and illnesses in patients. Transfusion medicine, scientific research, cellular pathology, clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology, and immunology are all sciences practiced in these laboratories.

Now the knowledge of medicine is globalized. New discoveries are tested and methods compared and analyzed to develop the most effective practices. The basic sciences of pharmacology, genetics, technology, anatomy, biochemistry, biomechanics, biostatistics, immunology, neuroscience, nutritional science, molecular biology, cytology, embryology, endocrinology, endocrinology, epidemiology, pathology, photobiology, physiology, radiobiology, and toxicology, all contribute to modern medicine.

History of Pharmacology
A Brief History of Great Discoveries in Pharmacology
ASPET knowledge center resources
History of drug store.

History of Genetics
Charted landmarks for the history of genetics.
Timeline for developments in genetics.
Various articles on the history of genetics.

History of Biochemistry
Table of dates of discoveries.
Roots of biochemistry.

History of Biomechanics
A Genealogy of Biomechanics
Biomechanics history from 600 B.C.

History of Biostatistics
Early history of biostatistics.
Biostatistics And The History Of Biological Thought

History of Immunology
History Of Immunology article
A Concise History of Immunology
Immunology Timeline

History of Neuroscience
Milestones in Neuroscience Research
History of Neuroscience
International Society for the History of the Neurosciences

History of Nutritional Science
A history of nutrition.

History of Molecular Biology
Molecular biology history from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Scientific convergence in the birth of molecular biology
The Search for DNA - The Birth of Molecular Biology

History of Cytology
History of cytology from the Institute of Biomedical Science
Timeline of cytology
A History of Cytology by Arthur Hughes

History of Embryology
History of Embryology from the National Center for Science Education

History of Endocrinology
The History of Endocrinology
The Endocrine Society

History of Epidemiology
Papers by Alfredo Morabia
History of Epidemiologic Ideas, Methods and Concepts
A History of Epidemiologic Methods and Concepts
The life and times of Dr. John Snow, considered by many to be the father of public health, epidemiology and anesthesiology.

History of Pathology
A history of pathology from Baylor University Medical Center
Book lists on pathology history.
History and interviews on pathology.

History of Photobiology
Historical vignettes in photobiology.
The history of ultra violet photobiology.;2
A historical timeline of ultraviolet photobiology for humans, animals and microorganisms.
Photobiology for kids.

History of Physiology
The history of physiology.
A brief history of physiology in easy to understand terms.
Living history of physiology.

History of Toxicology
History of toxicology by toxicologist Dr. Emily Monosson.
Milestones of toxicology presented in image.
Toxicology history and library.

General Medical Clinics

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