Term Paper: Renaissance the Trend in Medicine

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¶ … Renaissance

The trend in medicine varies accordingly on the each era. Its development was in leaps and bounds as the ruling way of thinking in a specific time period dictates the approach of healers and physicians to diseases and illnesses. The approach in healing a certain disease or condition varies from one epoch to another and mirrors the tradition, culture, mores and belief of a certain point in time. Science played an important role in the evolution of medicine. As advancements occur in the filed of science, so did they in the field of medicine. Medicine and science did not remain stagnant. They evolved, grew, and made great changes to the society and to our history.

The advancements in science and medicine did not happen immediately. They almost occurred in a synchronized manner and affected one another. Every discovery made in science had an effect in the events happening in the field of medicine. The beliefs that was changed or strengthened in medicine are almost always similar to those in the world of science. In a way, medicine, being included in the umbrella of science itself, took advantage of the discoveries and developed.

Great events that were mostly catastrophic precipitated great changes in the field of medicine. The scientists and great thinkers during those times questioned the tradition and created new ones that they considered plausible to their way of thinking. One of these major world events is the "Great Plague" that happened in 1354 caused by Yesinia pestis which swept over Europe and conquered lives of millions of people. During this time, people were focused on religious explanations in healing diseases, but this did not prevent the deaths of many who were afflicted with the disease. Because of the death of a lot of people, many healers with a scientific mind began to question and challenge the ancient beliefs and traditions established by scientists that time led by Hippocrates and Galen. Hippocrates provided a basic understanding of the musculoskeletal system, but he and his followers relied more on speculation. It was Aristotle who started dissection of animals and dissection of cadavers was done by Herophilus and Erasistratus. 4 Galen documented anatomical parts of animals and his work was the source of anatomical knowledge for a period in time. Despite all this discoveries that are meant to provide relief to the human race, their traditional approach to disease was not able to solve the problem that was sweeping Europe by storm.

The Late Middle Ages and the start of the Renaissance period showed major discoveries in the field of science and medicine. The advent of the printing press enabled scientists to publish their works, hence provide knowledge to inquisitive minds and allow transfer of ideas. This allowed educational institutions to teach their students through drawings and enable their students to study anatomical parts. But the actual dissections were done under strict supervision and by authorized persons that students had to travel to different towns where dissections of human body were being held very much like a show in the circus - in front of an audience.

This period showed how the approach in problems changed from a merely speculative to scientific observation of things. Many naturalists and botanists were also physicians, and this truth explained the foundation of making use of keen observation and scientific experimentation to explain things and discover new ideas. This made it possible to establish an accurate account of the human anatomy, and its function to be understood and studied. Science advanced alongside with medicine in this aspect. Three notable names were prominent basing on their contributions to science and medicine during this time-Paracelsus, Vesulius and Harvey.

Some of the advances in chemistry can be credited to Paracelsus, a renowned alchemist and rebel during his time, known to be constantly opposing medical authority. He was a son of a physician and this exposed him to medical experiences. Paracelsus was able to unite medicine with chemistry with the use of chemicals. He was a well-traveled person, thought to have reached India and China, and his travels influenced his approach to diseases. He believed that three basic substances in the form of sulphur, mercury and salt forms the body. He named this form "Archeus." He advocated use of various chemicals in providing cure to diseases and believed in the healing powers of nature or "mumia." He opposed the doctrine of contraries established by Galen and promoted his theory of similars. Homeopathy was based in this belief. He contributed to pharmacy as he experimented with the use of various chemicals such as iron and antimony. He was known to have encouraged the use of tincture of opium and this may have been an influence form his travel to the East.

Vesalius, a Flemish scholar, wrote the first complete book on human anatomy, "De Humani Corporis Fabrica" which means "On the Fabric of the Human Body." 8 Vesulius was fortunate to have had an early exposure to anatomy and surgery. His father had a position in apothecary during the reign of Charles V and this enabled him to observe him at his work. He was a true student of nature, as he was able to realize early that knowing the components of the human body, he would know how the body works and functions. Vesalius was able to provide a detailed drawing of parts of the human body, despite the difficulty in acquisition of fresh human body for dissection. This he did by procuring bodies of those who were hanged or condemned. This achievement qualified him to hold a teaching position in the University of Padua. Vesalius made it possible to have an order and organizational approach in studying anatomy. To say that he started anatomy is wrong since this credit is given to the Alexandrians who did the first dissections themselves. What he did was important in the sense that his contributions to anatomy provided a detailed, organized and scientific approach on this subject matter.Vesalius made a revolutionary change in medicine when he published "Fabrica," refuting Galen's centuries-old knowledge about anatomy, but at the same time bringing back the attention of scholars to Galen. Because of this, he earned the ire of many scientists but had his own gathering of loyal followers. He eventually became a valued physician of the court and was first to describe internal aneurysm. Vesalius laid the groundwork for changes in anatomy and made it must-course for students studyig to be physicians.

Harvey was a student of Vesalius' follower, Fabricius. Using finite experimental method, he was able to describe the function of the valves and the circulation of the blood in the human body.

Many scientists of this time made enormous contributions in the field of science and medicine. Advancements in science enabled men to study the human body, thus prove and disprove exisiting theories. Sanctorius contributed by beginning the studies of temperature, respiration and the physics of the circulation. Rene Descartes, a well-known mathematician and scientist, made his contribution when he wrote the first book of physiology "Del'Homme." Science and medicine was united with one another such that the literature for each were used interchangably to explain mechanism and function of the discovered parts of the human body. Evident of this was quoted by Withington of Pitcairne, the Scot who was a professor of medicine at Leyden at the end of the seventeenth century. He said that, "Life is the circulation of the blood...Disease is an abnormal motion of the blood, either general or local."

In this statement, science and medicine were in harmony. The language of science is used in medicine, and the language of medicine can be used in science. An example of this, according to him is the digestion that occurs in the stomach which he believed is a mechanical process and the strength responsible for the chruning is the wieght of the stoamch that enables it to have enough power that is comparative to that of a millstone.. Daniel Sennert of Wittenberg, was the first to introduce the systematic teaching of chemistry into the curriculum, and tried to unify the views of Galen and Paracelsus. Franciscus Sylvius, a disciple of Van Helmont, established the first chemical laboratory in Europe at Leyden, and to him is due the introduction of modern clinical teaching.

Post-mortem studies revealed the cause of death, and the disease of a person. Pioneering in this method is a general practitioner, Antonio Benivieni who practiced in Florence during the last third of the fifteenth century and eventually dying in 1502. He had a habit of making brief notes of his more important cases, more of his observations of his procedures. These notes were found by his brother Jerome, collected and published in 1507. All in all, he was able to write 111 observations of his surgical cases. Observation no. 38 which refers to a case of angina where he performed a successful operation is one of the most complete and detailed entries he wrote. Other cases… [END OF PREVIEW]

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