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Seated female figures thought to be fertility goddess shown giving birth



What is known of Egyptian medicine comes principally from two large fragments of writing, the Ebers papyrus and the Smith papyrus. These papyruses were written about 1600 BC; the Ebers text is a compilation from many sources, and the Smith is probably a copy of a text written about 2500 BC. The Ebers papyrus includes incantations for specific illnesses as well as invocations to the gods; careful case histories and valuable prescriptions, such as castor oil as a cathartic and tannic acid for burns, also were recorded. The Smith papyrus, on the other hand, includes surgical advice that remains pertinent today, such as the use of compression to stop bleeding, and sections on diseases of the eye and the heart and other internal organs. The practices outlined resemble those of modern medicine--defining the disease, stating its symptoms, indicating what the physician should find upon examination, suggesting therapy, and giving a prognosis. The greatest Egyptian physician was Imhotep (about 2800 BC), who also was the architect of the Step Pyramid of Saqqarah.


United Arab Republic, Ebers papyrus


The First Known Physician in History - Healing god “ IMHOTEP



About 2000 BC the Amorites unified the nations and tribes in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. They built Babylon, and science and learning flourished under their greatest king, Hammurabi. The Code of Hammurabi, which constitutes wide-ranging laws inscribed on a great stone pillar, includes definitions of the conduct of a physician-- what he may treat, what his fee should be--and also prescribes punishments for malpractice. The Hebrew civilization developing at about the same time placed strong emphasis on public health and sanitation. It codified these practices in the Pentateuch and Talmud as prescribed by Moses. The practice of medicine in ancient Israel was one of the duties of the priesthood.



The healing arts in the Orient have had a long and complex history. In several of the major Oriental cultures, forms of medicine involved elaborate theories encoded in multivolume series of texts. Such systems are now referred to as traditional medicine.



Throughout much of their history, the Indians came into contact with the Persians, Greeks, and Chinese, with whom they exchanged information. About 900 BC the Ayurveda, written in India, combined descriptions of disease with information on herbs and magic. The first great Hindu physician known, Charaka, practiced about 1000 BC. Susruta, in the 5th century AD, noted the relationship of malaria to mosquitoes and of plague to rats, knew of more than 700 medicinal plants, and described more than 100 surgical instruments. He treated fractures, removed tumors and kidney stones, and delivered babies by Caesarian section.



The Nei Jing (Nei Ching, or Book of Medicine of the Yellow Emperor), probably written in the 3rd century BC, describes human anatomy, including the circulation of the blood. Much of the treatment at that time was based on the yin-yang principle; that is, the balance between active and passive, hot and cold, male and female. The chief role of a Chinese physician was to restore the harmony between yin and yang in a patient. The Chinese also developed massage and invented acupuncture and immunization against smallpox. The physician Hua To, in 300 BC, pioneered the use of anesthesia and performed abdominal surgery, including spleen removal.


The Bencao Gang Mu (Pen T'saokang-mu), begun in the 3rd or 4th century AD and completed in the 16th century, describes about 1,000 drugs, including croton oil, opium, rhubarb, iron, and ephedrine, all of which have been used in modern times. The pinnacle of Chinese medicine was reached during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (Ch'ien-lung), when all medical information was compiled in a 40-volume encyclopedia, The Golden Mirror of Medicine (1743). Soon after, European ideas began to be introduced, and modern and traditional medicine came to be practiced simultaneously.



Little is known of Japanese medicine before the 7th century AD, when Chinese influence began to dominate medical practice. In the 1600s Western medicine was introduced by Portuguese missionaries. After Commodore Perry established contact, Japan rapidly advanced in medicine and science, and in the 20th century it became the equal of any nation.



The healing art of ancient Hellenic people was associated with the worship of Apollo, for whom the Oracle at Delphi was established. According to legend, medicine, taught to Chiron by Apollo, was in turn passed on to Aesculapius, who may have been a real man who lived about 1200 BC, but later was thought to be a god and was worshiped in temples of healing. Inscriptions on these temples record the treatment of disease, consisting of rest, exercise, diet, and magic.


Asclepius was a Greek hero who later become the Greek god of medicine and healing. The son of Apollo and Coronis, Asclepius had five daughters, Aceso, Iaso, Panacea, Aglaea and Hygieia. He was worshipped throughout the Greek world but his most famous sanctuary was located in Epidaurus which is situated in the northeastern Peloponnese. The main attribute of Asclepius is a physician's staff with an Asclepian snake wrapped around it; this is how he was distinguished in the art of healing, and his attribute still survives to this day as the symbol of the modern medical profession. The cock was also sacred to Asclepius and was the bird they sacrificed as his altar. Apollo


The mother of Asclepius, Coronis, was a mortal, the daughter of Phlegyas, a king of Thessaly. Coronis was unfaithful to Apollo, and Artemis, Apollo's twin sister, killed her for her unfaithfulness. Coronis was placed upon a funeral pyre. (One version says that Apollo cast her into the fires of his own anger.) As her body started to burn, Apollo felt sorrow for his unborn son and snatched the child Asclepius from his mother's corpse, saving him from death. Apollo then handed Asclepius to the Centaur Chiron who became his tutor and mentor.


Chiron taught Asclepius the art of healing. According to Pindar (Pythian Odes), Asclepius also acquired the knowledge of surgery, the use of drugs, love potions and incantations, and according to Apollodorus (the Library), Athena gave Asclepius a magic potion made from the blood of the Gorgon. Legend tells that the blood of the Gorgon has a different effect depending from which side the blood was taken. If taken from the right side of the Gorgon, it has a miraculous effect and is said to be able to bring the dead back to life, but taken from the left side it is a deadly poison.


With these gifts Asclepius exceeded the fringes of human knowledge. However, he offended the great god Zeus by accepting money in exchange for raising the dead. (In one version it was the goddess Artemis who implored Asclepius to resurrect Hippolytus, a favourite of hers.) In the eyes of Zeus, Asclepius' action upset the natural order of the universe - a mere mortal helping man evade death. With one swift action, the great Zeus sent down a thunderbolt killing both men. (In some versions Zeus only killed Asclepius.)

Realising the good Asclepius had brought to man, the great Zeus made him into a god, placing him among the stars, transforming Asclepius into the constellation Ophiuchus (the serpent-bearer). The snake was used in the healing ritual; non-poisonous snakes were left in the dormitory where the sick slept overnight on the bare ground.


The cult of Asclepius became very popular during the 300s BCE and the cult centres (known as an Asclepieion) were used by priests to cure the sick. Invalids also came to the shrines of Asclepius to find cures for their ailments (in the same fashion pilgrims visit Lourdes today.) The process of healing was known as incubation. The patient would spend the night in a dormitory. During the night they would supposedly be visited by the god in a dream. Priests would interpret the dreams and then recommend a remedy or give advice on how they could be cured with perhaps a recommended visit to the baths and gymnasiums. There were many centres and schools of medicine, from Trikkis in Thessaly to the island of Cos. It is believed that Hippocrates, a great doctor of antiquity, plied his trade on the island of Cos. It is also said that Hippocrates was a descendant of Asclepius.


The Romans adopted the cult of Asclepius, but changed his name to Latin; they called him Aesculapius.


In Greek mythology, the god of medicine. He was a son of the god Apollo and Coronis, a beautiful maiden of Thessaly. Angry because Coronis was unfaithful to him, Apollo killed her and tore the unborn Asclepius from her womb. He later sent Asclepius to be brought up by the centaur Chiron. Asclepius learned all that Chiron knew about the art of healing and soon became a great physician. Because he threatened the natural order by raising people from the dead, the god Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt.


The cult of Asclepius was centred in Epidaurus but it was popular throughout the Graeco-Roman world. The sanctuaries of Asclepius functioned as health resorts, where therapeutic regimens such as exercise and diets were prescribed. The most important practice associated with the cures was the ritual of incubation, in which afflicted people slept within a temple or sacred enclosure in the hope that the god would come to them in dreams and prescribe cures for their illnesses.





                                                               The gate of aesculapion (hospital of Aesculapius) in Bergama, Turkey



          The daughter of Aesculapius Hygeia                          His sons Machaon and Podaleirios were not only    

                                                                                healing people, they were also the commander of Troian War.



Hippocrates was born on the Island of Cos in 460 BC. A great deal is known about this physician from about 70 books extant that were written either by him or by his students and followers. Among the more important principles he stressed were:





                          The tree of Hippocrates


* The physician should work not for personal gain but for love of humanity and should be sober, industrious, clean, discreet, and modest;


* Disease should be studied by meticulous observation, making use of sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell in order to diagnose properly, and cases should be carefully recorded and studied to establish a prognosis;


* Disease is often the result of environmental forces--diet, climate, and occupation;


* The physician should emphasize simple treatment supplemented with careful diet and surgical intervention when necessary.


A physician's conduct is summarized in the Hippocratic oath, sworn to by newly graduated physicians to this day.



In the 4th century BC, Aristotle, pupil of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great, dissected many species, studied insect and animal behavior with great accuracy, laid the foundations for embryology, and suggested evolution. Aristotle's importance was in his belief that the scientific method--careful observation, experimentation, and study of cause and effect--could lead to greater scientific knowledge.



Roman medicine emphasized public health. Sanitation, sewage disposal, and the water system exceeded anything that followed in the Western world prior to the 19th century. Medical students were educated at public expense, and physicians were supplied for the poor and incorporated into the armed forces and hospitals.



The most important contributions to medicine during the Roman Empire were those of Celsus and Galen. Aulus Cornelius Celsus (fl. AD 10-37), a Roman of patrician lineage, wrote an 8-volume encyclopedia on medicine known as De Re Medica. Little recognized during its own time, the work was rediscovered in the 15th century, at which time it had a great impact on scientific thought. Six of the eight books describe various diseases and discuss therapy using diet, drugs, and manipulation. The last two books treat topics in surgery, including operations for goiter, hernia, and bladder stone, as well as describing tonsillectomy and the removal of eye cataracts. Celsus also recommended treating fractures with splints and bandages stiffened with starch.



Galen (AD c.131-200), was born in Bergama, Turkey and served the emperor Marcus Aurelius. He wrote 500 books, 80 of which are extant. Although he stated that knowledge of human anatomy was fundamental for a physician, his anatomical facts were obtained from the dissection of animals and incorporated many errors when applied to human anatomy. Nevertheless, he explained the function of many nerves, discovered the sympathetic nervous system, and described almost all the structures of the brain visible to the naked eye. He insisted, however, that tiny pores existed in the heart through which blood passed from the right to the left ventricle, an error accepted throughout Europe for more than a thousand years.



He was born in Bergama