Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

ments and thanks ; and to no one are these due more than to a personal friend of Doctor Good, Professor J. W. Francis, of New York, not only for many practical remarks of great importance, but also for the use of his extensive library of rare books, and for a free access to his valuable cabinet of anatomical preparations, which, in many cases, has afforded the Editor an opportunity of verifying the statements of the text.

Prefixed to the “Study of Medicine," the reader will find a new “ History of Medicine," by the learned and eloquent Bostock; it forms a happy introduction to the main work, and its perusal will richly reward the careful reader.

232 Grand-street, New-YORE, August 1, 1835. S

THE

HISTORY OF MEDICINE,

FROM ITS ORIGIN TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.

[ocr errors]

HISTORY

M E D I C I NE,

FROM ITS ORIGIN TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

[ocr errors][merged small]

Introduction Division of the History of Medicine into three great Chronological Periods History

of Medicine previously to its Introduction into Greece-Origin of Medicine-State of Medicine among the Egyptians-Among the Assyrians-Among the Jews-Introduction of Medicine into Greece-Chiron- Æsculapius-Machaon-Podalirius-The Asclepiadæ-Records in the Temples of Æsculapius-Ancient Inscriptions--Pythagoras-Democritus-Heraclitus-Acron-Herodicus -Gymnastic Medicine.

ALTHOUGH the primary object of this treatise is to present a view of the history and progress of practical medicine, yet it will be impossible to avoid entering occasionally into the consideration of the various theories and speculations which have so generally prevailed in the science Medical theory and practice have been so intimately blended together, that it would be useless to attempt to separate them. The terms which are employed in works of the most practical nature are, for the most part, derived from the theory which was current at the time of their publication; and even the narrative of facts, and the direct details of experience, are, with a few exceptions, deeply tinged with the prevailing doctrines of the day, or with the individual speculations of the writer. Those who are versed in medical science, and who are acquainted with the relation which it bears to the other physical sciences, with the mode in which it is acquired, and the nature of the evidence on which it rests, will easily perceive that, in this department, it is peculiarly difficult to separate facts from hypothesis. It may, however, be asserted, that until this be accomplished, medicine can never be placed upon the basis of induction, and that this alone can give it that stability which may entitle it to be regarded as a correct science. In its present condition, it will be impossible to do more than to approximate to so desirable a state ; but it will be a special object of attention in the following pages to endeavour to point out the limits between practice and theory, between facts and the opinions that have been deduced from them.

When we take an extended view of the progress of medicine, tracing it from its scanty sources, in the most remote periods of society, and observe its course, as gradually augmented by the stores of Grecian and Roman learning, obscured by the darkness of the middle ages, and again bursting forth in the copious and almost overwhelming streams of modern literature, we are naturally led to separate the 'narrative into three divisions, corresponding to the three great chronological periods. The first of these will comprehend the history of practical medicine, from the earliest records which we possess to the decline of Roman literature; the second will contain an account of the state of the science through what are termed the dark ages until the revival of letters; the third will commence with the establishment of the inductive philosophy, and be continued to the commencement of the nineteenth century.

In tracing the history of this science from its earliest records, it will not be necessary to devote much time to a subject which was formerly discussed with great learning and acuteness, viz. the origin of medicine. It may be sufficient to remark, that in proportion to the progress of civilization or refinement, attempts would be made to remove or alleviate the diseases, and to repair the injuries to which the body is constantly incident. Subject as it is at all times to the influence of various noxious agents, and to a consequent derangement of its functions, to painful affections of various kinds, and to the loss or depravation of its powers or actions, we must conceive that mankind would be anxious to remove or relieve these evils. The means that would be employed must have been, in the first instance, extremely imperfect, and frequently ill-directed. They may have been suggested by the effects of certain kinds of food, or by the operation of certain external agents on the body: some analogies may have been derived from the spontaneous actions of the system, by observing the natural efforts of the constitution to remove certain causes of disease, or to relieve the patient when suffering from their effects. Thus, in the earliest periods of society, mankind must have been aware of the relief which was obtained in the derangements of the alimentary canal by an evacuation of its contents, and would probably have discovered, inci. dentally, that certain vegetable substances promoted this operation. In the external injuries to which the body is subject, more especially in a rude state of society, means would early be had recourse to for procuring present ease from pain, or for removing the obvious danger to life which would so frequently follow from various causes. It would soon be found that the pain was diminished by excluding the wounded part from the air, or from other extraneous substances; that by certain modes of pressure, the flow of blood might be restricted; and that in some cases an increased and in others a diminished temperature gave immediate ease to the patient, and tended to promote the ultimate cure. A rude species of medical and surgical practice of this description has been in all cases found to exist in newlydiscovered countries, even when in the most barbarous state; while it has been observed, generally, that the improvement in the healing art has been nearly.in proportion to the advancement of the other arts of life, and to the gradual progress of knowledge on all subjects intimately connected with our existence or welfare.

The historical records which we possess respecting the progress of practical medicine are scanty and uncertain; but so far as they extend, they coincide with the view of the subject taken above. The writers who have investigated this point with the greatest learning and assiduity, inform us that Egypt was the country in which the art of medicine, as well as the other arts of civilized life, was first cultivated with any degree of success, and that it had advanced so far as to have become a distinct profession. We are not, however, informed in what degree or to what extent that distinct appropriation was carried; whether medicine was made the exclusive business of certain individuals, who were regularly instructed for that purpose; whether it was attached to certain public functionaries, especially to the priests; or whether persons in different situations applied themselves to the practice of medicine from a real or supposed superiority in their skill and in their knowledge of the treatment of diseases. The probability, however, is, that the priests of the Egyptians were at the same time their physicians. This appears to have been the case among the Jews and the Greeks, who are supposed to have borrowed from the Egyptians many of their institutions; and indeed it seems to be the natural progress of society in its earlier periods, when the priests were generally the depositaries of knowledge of all kinds, and when they confined it as much as possible to their own use, for the purpose of maintaining their influence over the rest of the community.

From some remarks which are made incidentally in the writings of the ancients, respecting the medicine of the Egyptian priests, it would appear that it consisted in a great measure of the employment of magical incantations, and, so far therefore as it effected the cure of disease, must have operated through the medium of the imagination. This has been in all cases the first step in the art of medicine, if it may be so called, and its efficacy must have been in exact proportion to the ignorance and superstition of the people on whom it was exercised.*

A circumstance respecting the practice of medicine in Egypt is mentioned by

[merged small][graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »