The topic that I chose to do a little research on was ancient medicine. For me, the topic of medicine has been relevant throughout my whole life. My mom, one of the most influential people to me, is a psychiatrist at Cedar Springs Hospital. Before becoming a psychiatrist, she was a nurse, then a flight for life nurse, and now a practicing physician. She would come home after a long shift still talking to the nurses at the hospital. As a little boy, I would eaves drop on her conversations and heard all these crazy words such as amitriptyline, diazepam, and olanzapine pamoate monohydrate. At the time, I thought she was just making up words, but it turns out these were drugs and medications she was prescribing. At that specific moment I knew I wanted to become a doctor and thus began my love for science and medicine.
In my Western Civilization class, Glenn, my professor, told the class to pick a topic that interests us and to research more on it. As an instinct, I dove straight into the development of medicine. I wanted to learn more about the physicians that shaped and started the revolution of medicine. Today, many people take advantage of the techniques and research that doctors have done to better the lives of everyone else. I was one of those people. I didn’t think of how much practice and risks that these individuals take to improve the overall health of the population. I thought back to way before X-rays were made or surgeries were performed, and I stumbled across ancient civilizations. Maybe a week before the assignment was tasked to us, Glenn taught about the Golden Age of Greece and I figured I should start there. This is where the journey began and soon, I would discover the vast history of medicine.
The first person I am going to talk about is Hippocrates. To many, he is known as the “Father of Medicine.” This nickname was given to him because of his revolutionary theories in medicine at the time. During the Golden Age of Greece, the majority of society believed gods would heal them if they worshipped to the right one, such as Asclepius. Asclepius was the god of medicine and known for healing and fixing injuries that a person may have. Hippocrates didn’t believe in these folklores, instead he wanted to prove science is the only way to heal somebody. During his life, Hippocrates was dedicated to making medicine become the thing of the future. He wrote many books, but his most famous is the Hippocratic Corpus. In this published document, Hippocrates goes on about a summary of diagnoses, treatments, and ethical situations. The Hippocratic Oath is one of the most famous from the book and he said, “Treat the sick to the best of one’s ability, preserve patient privacy, teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, and so on.” Not only did he talk about Ethics, but one his most famous theories is of the four humours. To summarize,Hippocrates believed that there were four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile, all of which play a part in the health of human beings. If the four characteristics were lined up correctly, then a person would feel healthy. If the opposite were true, they were imbalanced, causing sickness. Even though there are many more things that can relate to someone being sick, Hippocrates paved the road for many more physicians to put in their input.
The next physician that I want to talk about is Herophilus. Even though Herophilus’s records were lost in the great fire of Alexandria, there were some notable discoveries he made. For example, Herophilus was the first to systematically dissect a body. The body was considered to be sacred and couldn’t be handled after death because it should be laid to rest for the sake of the soul. Not only did Herophilus break this tradition, but he would receive the bodies from the king who sent former criminals in the name of science. By dissecting the body, Herophilus discovered the difference between motor nerves and sensory nerves. He also examined the major differences of the reproductive cycle between a man and woman. Like Hippocrates, Herophilus took a risk to better the world of medicine and this led more physicians like Galen, to develop new theories.
Galen is the last physician I’m going to talk about. He is the youngest of the two and actually used the discoveries from past doctors to come up with his own. Unlike Hippocrates or Herophilus, Galen included philosophy in the world of science. Galen claimed that in his dreams, which he believed to have been sent from Asclepius, he was capable of performing medical feats. Based off of these dreams, Galen invented bloodletting: the process of allowing blood to flow out of the body in an attempt to balance out the Four Humours, which were theorized by Hippocrates. He also theorized that the ruling part of the soul is the brain, because the brain contains the nerves that perceive the world and its’ elements. The only way he would have known the brain is the control center of the nerves is from Herophilus. To conclude, the world of medicine would not be the same without these initial ideas from Hippocrates, Herophilus, and Galen. Each individual played a role into what medicine has become, and who knows what the world of medicine would look like today if it weren’t for these initial ideas.