Advances in medical knowledge

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.