Advances in medical knowledge
Early and Medieval Periods (c500-1500)
- Herbal Remedies: Many treatments were based on natural remedies, such as herbs and plants, which sometimes had positive effects.
- Monastic Hospitals: Monks played a crucial role in providing health care, combining spiritual healing with an empirical approach which used observation and trial and error.
- Galen: The works of ancient Greek physician, Galen, were rediscovered in the Middle Ages, and influenced medical thinking with his emphasis on the four humours.
Renaissance Period (c1500-1700)
- Harvey’s Discovery of the Circulatory System: William Harvey’s work in 1628 provided the first accurate description of how blood circulates around the body, debunking Galen’s theory.
- Paré and Surgery: Ambroise Paré contributed significantly to surgery by developing new techniques and advocating the use of ligatures during amputation instead of cauterisation.
- Printing Press: The invention of the printing press allowed for the rapid spread of ideas and made medical knowledge more accessible.
Industrial Era (c1700-1900)
- Vaccination: Edward Jenner’s development of the smallpox vaccine in 1796 marked the start of preventive medicine.
- Anaesthesia and Antiseptics: The introduction of anaesthesia and antiseptics revolutionised surgery, making it safer and less painful.
- Koch’s Postulates: Robert Koch outlined specific criteria to establish a causative relationship between a microbe and a disease, advancing the germ theory.
Modern Era (c1900-present)
- Antibiotics: The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming set the stage for the development of antibiotics, marking a major step forward in the treatment of bacterial infections.
- Imaging Technology: Technological advances led to the introduction of X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans which revolutionised diagnostics.
- Genomic Medicine: The Human Genome Project and advances in genetic research have allowed for personalised medicine and precise diagnostics based on a patient’s genetic makeup.
Evolution of Medical Knowledge
- Medical knowledge has evolved from basic theories and practices towards increasingly sophisticated understanding.
- Each period of history is characterised by unique medical advancements, dictated by technological developments and the understanding of the human body at that time.
- Ongoing scientific research continues to deepen our understanding of health and medicine, leading to the development of innovative treatments and procedures.