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SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE,
FROM ITS ORIGIN TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
BY 8. BOSTOCK, M.D. 1835, 8vo.
The origin of the science of Medicine, like the origin of almost all other sciences, is lost in the darkness of remote antiquity. As disease commenced with the gift of life, so the means of removing or alleviating it must have been among the earliest efforts of those who felt, when they first drew vital air, the weakness and tenderness of humanity. The slow progress of their early inventions, and the limited nature of their resources and remedies, we may, without being wide of our aim, conjecture; from what we discover among the vagrant tribes of the desert, the remote dwellers in the oceap-isles, and all the uncivilized people of the globe. The art of Medicine probably commenced with the accidental discovery of the virtues of plants; and a decoction of vegetable substances was taken internally, or applied to the surface of the body, as the nature of the disease suggested. A lacerated limb from a contest with "a lion or a bear” who had attacked the fold; a kick from a Centaur who was opposed in forcibly carrying away the most beautiful damsel of the village; or a fall from the back of that venerable and primæval animal, who from time immemorial has been the patient servant and the humble friend of man ;-such wounds called for some chirurgic aid ; and after much thought, and many a bold hypothesis, and extensive inquiry, and repeated consultations, it was resolved to try the effect of binding and bandaging the wounds with vegetables of balsamic properties, and excluding the external air. Sometimes a bolder practitioner would recommend the patient to be wrapt in the hot skin of the offending animal; or to have the oxydated metal of the spear scraped over the wound, as an antidote to the effects of its destructive faug:* or when a chieftain, who went out to battle in the morning, Diis similis, came back with a headache from the effects of a hot and dusty campaign, and the weight of his sevenfold shield; and when a capacious bowl of strong dark wine, frequently filled and emptied, was found to disappoint the well-founded hopes of the suffering giant, the Briseis of the tent, with her handmaids, was sent to herbalize on the banks of the river
* There is no mention of poisoned weapons in the Iliad ; but in the Odyssey, lib. i.
For thither also had Ulysses gone
Ilus refused, &c. From many circumstances the Odyssey appears to be a poem of later date than the Iliad. That part of the last book, subsequent to the meeting of Laertes and Ulysses, seems different in style of expression and thought from the rest, and added by one who belonged to another age.
for some fresh and cooling diaphoretic. A few trifling mistakes might be made and overlooked, and when some obstinate and clumsy leech sacrificed to his ignorance the flower of an army or a court, and
Πολλάς δ' έφθίμους ψυχάς άϊδι προΐαψεν
“Ηρώων, his blunder was laid on the shoulders of remorseless Pluto and the inex. orable Fates : but in this manner a few simple remedies were discovered, perpetuated and improved, and the loss of eyes, fingers, and other small servants of that prince the Body, was submitted to with a good grace; just as our friends the Americans are contented to enjoy the beauties of their transatlantic ladies, without the unnecessary ornament of teeth. During this period we may presume that the gentlemen of the Old World were much engaged in cultivating their farms, or drilling their militia, or hunting tawny lions; and the art of Medicine consequently fell into female hands, as among the wild Indians of the present day, the squaws perform all the offices, and practise all the branches of the healing art: and certainly they seem to have attained to no despicable knowledge of the virtue of herbs ; and can brew a caldron of enchantment,* as powerful as even the fair daughter of Jove possessed.
A drug most potent to suppress or grief
His father and his mother both were dead. But passing over this first stage of the art, we are informed, on the best authority, that Egypt was the country in which Medicine was cultivated with such success as to have afforded a subject for a distinct profession. The Pharaohs were priests, as well as kings; the sacred fillet of the sacerdotal dignity was interwoven with the crown; and leech-craft probably was in the hands of the servants of Isis, who were in exclusive possession of a knowledge, which they had gained at the expense of some thousands of premature departures to Hades. The great high-priest of On was probably head-barber-surgeon to the monarch and his imperial consort, under whom a band of well-instructed tonsores medici were duly licensed to practise in Memphis, Thebes, and the surrounding cities. Homer informs us, that Egypt, more than any other country, possessed herbs of the most powerful virtues, and also more skilful physicians to administer them.
-For Egypt teems
For they are genuine sons of Pæon all. How much of their success was owing to magical incantation, and the early arts of empiricism, we cannot say; but from what we read in the
# In the Odyssey, book xix, the wound of Ulysses is cured by enchantment:
Around Ulysses his companions throng'd,
book of Exodus, we may presume that they were no mean proficients in deluding the senses; and probably had their metallic tractors, their tarantula dances, their animal magnetism and their touching for evil, in as much repute as the moderns.
Herodotus observes that each disease had its peculiar class of practitioners, as dentists,* aurists, chiropodists, doctors in gout, and doctors in calculous disease, and doctors in cutaneous eruptions ; the Scudamores, and Batemans, and Curtis's of the children of Cush; and that these separate occupations were transmitted from father to son, as they are in Persia, and in other parts of the East; so that we may presume that any travelling gentleman who has accidently found himself in Persia, and thereby acquired a title to the Travellers' Club; and who has had the pleasure of being bled, bathed, kneaded, and trimmed by the professors at Ispahan or Tabriz, may form a not inaccurate notion of their learned predecessors under the dynasty of Osymandyas. Of their profound knowledge of anatomy we have an indisputable proof :-one of their observations is, that there is a particular nerve that goes from the heart to the little finger of the left hand : for which reason, the Egyptians always wore rings on that finger, and dipped it in perfumed ointment. The other is, that it is impossible a man can live more than a hundred years, because there is a constant increase and diminution of the hearts of all sound persons, whereby their age can be judged. The heart of an infant weighed ten drachms, this weight increased annually by two drachms a year, till they came to the age of fifty: from which time it gradually decreased till they came to an hundred; when for want of a heart, they necessarily died.
If however the Egyptians were not very skilful in assisting the living, we must own that they proved themselves to be beyond any hopes of rivalry, most cunning artists in the preservation of the dead. The beauty, delicacy, and duration of their embalming processes, still claims the admiration of all. In thus giving to death the semblance of life, t and robbing him of half his prey, theology and surgery went hand in hand. It was the creed of the children of Misraim, that the body was not doomed to be destroyed or dissolved, or to lose its spiritual tenant, when this transitory dream of threescore years had passed away : but that it was to be renewed in other states, and for immeasurable periods of remote existence. Thus every possible art was employed in preventing the elements of decay from reaching it ; in fighting against the rat, and the worm, and the beetle ; in preserving it from the humid breath of the Nile, in its cedar-cases and rock-hewn sepulchres; and in rendering it impassable to the attacks of
* It is generally considered as a whimsical circumstance, that the Egyptians should have had particular physicians for different disorders, even for the tooth-ache, to which they were subject from chewing green-sugar-canes.'-Pauw on the Egyptians.
+ See a curious passage on this subject, quoted from Herodotus by that entertaining but rash writer De Pauw, in his history of the Egyptians and Chinese, i. p. 44.
i Alas ! the history of modern times (see different Memoirs of the French Revolution) has rendered little doubtful the enormities hinted at by the father of history. The time necessary for the process of embalming a body was seventy days.
# On the opinion of the Egyptians concerning the future state of the soul, much information will be found in Mosheim's notes to Cudworth's Intellectual System, cap. iv. That the former body, after death, should be resumed, was an undisputed tenet of belief. Suicides were assisted by the ceremony of oscillation in passing the Styx. Small figures were suspended with cords, and kept in swinging motion, to help them over a traject they had made more difficult.
time itself. Thus beautifully re-adjusted to the appearance of life, ren
* dered fragrant with all the gums and odorous spices of Arabia, frankincense, and balm and myrrh ; its form, its features preserved : dressed in costliest garments, and enthroned in chambers of regal magnificence, and more than rivalling its habitation upon earth ; a pious and credulous superstition fondly believed that it enjoyed the glories of its renewed existence; and that it would have been a cruelty too horrible to think of, that would
ave neglected to provide for the translated being all that piety could imagine of an august abode.+ The Roman poet goes so far as to hint, that even in social life, and round the domestic hearth, no difference was acknowledged between the living and the dead :
Of the medical knowledge of the Israelites little is known. In the writings of Moses are various allusions to the practice of Medicine, chiefly as regards the treatment of that national disease, the leprosy. To promote cleanliness and prevent contagion, seem to have been the chief objects of the simple yet severe legislation on the subject. Dirt and filth may accumulate with impunity in the suburbs of Amsterdam, or the crowded lanes of Hamburgh and London; but under the burning sun of Arabia, or in the hot valleys of Judæa, contagious pestilence and frightful disease would be produced: hence perhaps the origin of the rite of circumcision, and of the abstinence from the flesh of particular animals that are heating and indigestible. Well and wisely did the great Lawgiver issue his code of prohibitions and indulgences, which, for the most part, the taste, and perhaps the prudence of after ages, las approved. These which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls, they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the osprey, and the vulture, and the kite, and every raven after his kind, and the owl, and the night-hawk, and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl. And these shall be unclean among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, and the ferret, † and the chamelion, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole ; these are unclean among all that creep.'
* The author of this note has in bis possession some hair that belonged to a female who was taken from the most ancient catacombs of Thebes, and therefore might probably be more than three thousand years old. It is perfect in its preservation. The lily-root too of the same age, found in the hand of a mummy, is now growing in England.
† Manetho says that one of the kings of Egypt wrote a book on anatomy, or more probably the art of dissecting for the purpose of embalming. It is said that this art continued till the time of Theodosius. Dion Cassius relates, that Augustus disfigured the mummy of Alexander the Great, because he touched the nose precisely on the place where the cartilage had been taken away by the embalmers.
The Chinese are the greatest epicures, as regards unclean animals, of any civil. ized nation. Rats, bats, screech-owls, eagles, hawks, cats, badgers, and dogs, are seen boiled and stewed on the Celestial tables. Dogs are eaten in hot weather for their cooling quality ; (see Brand's Reise nach China, and others) we suppose when the dogstar rages. Yet this culinary fare may be considered as one step to future improvement; for in the eighth century, if we may believe the Abbé Renaudot, the Chinese were Anthropophagi! and would certainly have eaten up Lord Napier, and brought to table our ambassadors, envoys, commissaries, and such small deer,' instead of keep
In the porch of the temple of Jerusalem, a complete formulary of remedies was exhibited, of which Solomon was said to be the author. The sect of the Essenes in particular cultivated medicine, as they were also celebrated for their pure and mild system of morality; they were called Oepareitai, or healers and physicians, and they had the reputation of being able to work miracles. Among the Assyrians and Chaldæans the favourite science of astronomy was called in to assist Medicine; but that the stars were not strong enough to throw any light on the healing art, we may presume, from what Herodotus says, that the sick at Babylon were stationed in places of public resort, and remained exposed for the inspection of passengers, who were requested to furnish them with their advice, or rather every one was obliged to give some advice about each disease. The account of this practice seems to resemble much that of another great and ancient oriental nation. *The purple fever,' says an old traveller,' is a disease very dangerous in Europe, but few die of it in Tonquin : for the Tonquinese treat it in the following manner. They take the pitch of a certain reed, dip it in oil, and apply it successively to all the spots on the body. The flesh then bursts with a report as loud as a pistol : and after the corrupted blood has been squeezed out, they finish the cure by rubbing the wounds with ginger.
The ancient kings of Greece seem to have considered Medicine as an art not below the dignity of the monarch; and so kings became its nursingfathers, and queens its pursing-mothers. Illustrious are the names that appear in the original College of Physicians ! Besides Æsculapius, who with his two sons, Machaon and Podalyrius, was a successful practitionerthere was Chiron, whose visits (always on horseback) shewed the extent of his practice, Aristæus, Theseus, Telamon, Teucer, Patroclus, Ulysses, and other heroes, who were humanely employed in endeavouring to cure the wounds which they had previously inflicted. The poets also were employed in putting the best prescriptions into metre, for their better recollection. Linus, Orpheus, and Musæus sang of that beneficent art, which prolongs life, allays pain, and along with health restores happiness and pleasure. Hesiod, in his Works and Days, lays down some diætetic rules; and a most competent judge has pronounced that Homer's method of dressing wounds showed great science. What he says of the Nepenthe shows that the use of narcotics was known; of the virtues of that powerful plant the Moly we are ignorant ; but Circe seems to have entertained as great an aversion to it, as the Italian ladies do to nosegays or perfumes. At the siege of Troy nothing appears to have been done without the assistance of Bacchus. Whether the warriors went to battle or returned, sick or well, wounded or whole, before council and after, at breakfast or at supper, wine was their invariable companion. Even their wounds were bathed with wine ; and incision and scarification were also practiced. Pliny is surprised that Homer has not mentioned warm baths, and hence concludes that he was ignorant of the use of them: but Philostratus is of the contrary opinion : indeed, it is not probable, that where there were not rivers there should not be tepid baths ; and he says the hot baths of Jonia, situated near Smyrna, were called the baths of Agamemnon. In Greece, Medicine was cultivated in the temples; and that of Æscalapius at length gained the ascendancy over
ing a table for them. The Mandarins are allowed a different diet, which a Darteneuf or a Curtis would not have despised; swallows' nests, tendons of deer, fins of sharks, feet of bears, Molucca mushrooms, and swalofs! Such are the privileges of nobility.