Attempts to Treat and Cure Illness and Disease

Attempts to Treat and Cure Illness and Disease

Middle Ages (c.500-c.1500)

  • People utilised herbal remedies prepared by apothecaries or knowledgeable women in the village, commonly known as wise or cunning women.
  • Hospitals offered care rather than cure, providing a place for the sick and dying to receive spiritual aid.
  • The Four Humours theory held by the Greeks, including Hippocrates and later elucidated by Galen, influenced medical practices. Diseases were believed to be caused by an imbalance in these humours, and treatment was aimed at restoring balance.

Early Modern Period (1500-1800)

  • Some medical improvements were made following Andreas Vesalius’ research on human anatomy.
  • Physicians continued attempting to balance the Four Humours using practices like bleeding and purging.
  • Thomas Sydenham developed an observational approach to diagnosis and treatments, recognising diseases had patterns and could be classified.

19th Century

  • Edward Jenner’s discovery of vaccination permitted the prevention and eventual eradication of smallpox.
  • James Simpson discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform, revolutionising surgery and childbirth.
  • The development of Louis Pasteur’s Germ Theory facilitated the treatment of diseases by targeting specific germs, transforming the field of surgery with antiseptic practices advanced by Joseph Lister.

20th Century to Present Day

  • Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 brought about the age of antibiotics, revolutionising treatment of bacterial infections.
  • The birth of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 guaranteed free healthcare for all, ensuring accessible treatment.
  • Treatment methods were vastly improved thanks to the development of keyhole surgery and use of radiation and chemotherapy for cancer treatment.
  • Research into genetic modification has recently opened up possibilities of gene therapy for certain genetic diseases.
  • The use of stem cell therapy has gained momentum in the treatment of diseases like leukemia.