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Medieval Medicine

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Medieval Medicine Essay Medicine in the fourteenth century was primitive in comparison to modern standards of medical practice. Most medical practice and knowledge of the time was based on the works of Galen and Hippocrates, who had lived over a thousand years earlier. Their writings of observational medicine were very accurate at the time but by the medieval period, most of their observational practices had been lost and so rendered their medical writings pretty much irrelevant. However this was not realised at the time and so their writings were treated as a medical rule.1 Quite simply it was believed generally by physicians and teachers at the time that Galen's theory of the 4 humours could not be improved upon.2 At the time their was no understanding of the existence of bacteria and the need for sterilisation of medical equipment. This unfortunately lead to many people being in a worse physical state after their treatment than before due to high levels of infection. Often Barber Surgeons would come to town and perform basic surgery such as tooth pulling and amputations, using the same tools throughout the course of the day, with nothing more than a quick wipe in between procedures.3 As previously mentioned the basis of most medical knowledge at the time came from Galen's Theory of the "Four Humours". ...read more.


Obviously medicine was a continually improving field, with most advancement taking place in the Arabic world as previously mentioned. Most of the older remedies generally appeared to have no logical reason, yet people believed in them due to the fact they had been written down and lasted for so long. An example of this is John of Arderne, who recommended that someone who suffered from Epilepsy should have the crumbs of a roasted Cuckoo blown up their nose as a cure.13 Surgery in this period was very gradual in terms of its advance. This was largely down to the fact that Western Religion (Catholicism) was against the practice of dissection. Because of this fact very few were prepared to take the risk of finding out more about the human body. An example of one person who did have a good grasp of specialist surgery is an Italian Physician called Mondino Di Luzzi, who became much respected in the world of Medicine.14 It wasn't really until the fifteenth century that surgery began to advance more rapidly as the church realised it was essential to allow further study into the human anatomy. ...read more.


However they were not allowed to become qualified physicians and only really were permitted to practice on other women and children, primarily in the role of a midwife. There were some exceptions to this rule as early as the eleventh century in the famous school of Salerno which sanctioned women to learn and practice medicine on the same level as men. The reason this was permitted is as follows "In the fourteenth and fifteenth century, women did practice in the city [Salerno]. Women do, in fact, seem to have been tolerated in medical practice as in no other profession. One reason for such tolerance is that caring for the sick was regarded as charity and came within the scope of those who were in orders, nuns as well as monks".24 To conclude it can be seen that medicine of the time was quite primitive, yet there was some degree of understanding of the body and advances were made, if nothing else than via the method of trial and error. Medicine continued to advance slowly, but not for another 500 years did medicine really start to resemble the medical world we see of today. ...read more.

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