History of Medicine Essay

Pages: 4 (1126 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Medicine

History Medicine

The History of Medicine: Straight Path or Winding Road?

Looking back at the history and trajectory of various sciences and other areas of human achievement from a modern vantage point, it can be easy to see the past as a straight line of accomplishments that build on each other, leading directly and inevitable to the current state of human knowledge. One discovery leads to another, which leads to another, and as knowledge is refined in one area new applications are found in other areas, driving all sciences and knowledge forward at the same pace -- or so it often seems. In reality, few individual discoveries let alone whole bodies of science and knowledge actually progress in such a linear fashion, but rather there are fits and starts, false leads and parallel courses of inquiry, and a variety of backtracks, twists and turns that make the progress of science and knowledge more accurately described as a winding mountain path than a straight line. Though neither metaphor is perfect, the mountain path is far more accurate.

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This is no less true in the history and trajectory of medicine than it is in the realm of other sciences; though it might seem as though medicine has undergone a straight and simple path from the time of the ancient Greeks to today, with ever increasing rationality and empiricism leading to ever greater discoveries, this is far from the truth. The study and science of medicine has undergone several different iterations at different times throughout the history of civilization. At times there are what can be said to be steps "backwards," and at other times concurrent investigations and advances occur completely independent of each other. In short, there are many complexities to the trajectory of medicine's history and progress.

Essay on History of Medicine Assignment

This can be seen from the very earliest advances of medicine into a science rather than an extension of mythological and superstitious beliefs. As society progressed from mythopoeic hunter gatherers to agricultural communities able to sustain surpluses of food and thus turn their attention to other pursuits in a more concentrated way, illness and health became issues with natural and rational rather than supernatural and divine causes in several civilizations at around the same time. Even with this increase in rational empiricism in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and slightly later in Greece, however, medicine was not suddenly the subject of careful, direct, and skeptical inquiry that it is expected to be today. Instead, even the briefest examination of an ancient Egyptian medical papyrus (or at least the translation of such a papyrus) reveals a hue level of religious influence and appeal in the diagnosis and healing of disease, and many of the "rational" conclusions reached were entirely spurious.

The same is true of the Greek priests of medicine, who -- like the Egyptians -- admitted patients to their temple only after pre-diagnosing them and selecting individuals likely to survive, thus increasing the perceived efficacy of the temple and the priesthood. Then suddenly, the appearance of Hippocrates and Galen seemed to propel medicine almost entirely out of the realm of superstition, and these less-ancient Greeks brought true scientific inquiry to medicine almost from nowhere -- a very rare occurrence in science at all, let alone as the birth of a new science. This was not part of a real trajectory, but rather was a sudden leap forward in the perspective… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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History of Medicine.  (2010, August 11).  Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/history-medicine/9806080

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"History of Medicine."  Essaytown.com.  August 11, 2010.  Accessed September 29, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/history-medicine/9806080.