History of Medicine

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The medieval period is normally not associated with advances in technology, nor with contributions that benefit society. Yet, our medicine today owes much of its development to physicians of that time. Medicine of that era was strongly influenced by superstition and the doctrine of the Christian church, and did not have much foundation for practical application.

The need for medicine in Middle Ages was certainly great, considering the extreme amounts of plague and disease prevalent during that time (Grigsby 2). Unfortunately, medical knowledge of that day was of very little help (Margotta 68). Physicians had no concept of disease causing bacteria or viruses. Unfortunately, it was thought in that day that illness was either due to old age, heredity, or immoderate living. Is was also believed that certain sins could affect one's health (Grigsby 2).

Medical practice of the time revolved around a concept called the "doctrine of the four humors". Diagnoses of illness almost solely relied upon the examination of the human body's four humors- blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Each of the four humors was associated with a specific body part and certain elemental qualities. Blood was associated with the heart, and air. Phlegm was associated with the brain and water. Yellow bile was associated with the liver and fire, and black bile was associated with the spleen and Earth. When one's bodily humors were in equilibrium, that person was normally considered to be in good health. Sickness was thought to be a result of imbalance of the humors (Gottfried 106).

Diagnosis, except in the few rare cases, was usually based on the interpretation of the color and smell of the blood, the smell and the color of the phlegm and, most commonly, on the examination of the urine. There were countless methods of examinations, each explaining how a detailed diagnoses of all types of illnesses could be determined from the color and the odor of the urine and from...
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