Medicine wasn’t always as we know it now in its current refined form. There weren’t always processed pills and syrups, and there weren’t any complicated procedures to help the injured heal and recover. But one thing that has always existed is the common goal which has transcended time and place; the desire to stay healthy and comfortable. This instinct to remain able-bodied is what drove civilizations before us to explore the world of healing through the use of medicines.
The history of medicine is a rather distinguished and interesting one. It has seen a lot of advancement and growth, the details of which are quite impressive. However, its lack of documentation has made it hard to interpret. A lot of research has gone into understanding it, and there has been considerable progress into tracing a near-accurate timeline which we went over so that you wouldn’t have to. So, whether you’re looking for history trivia questions for the next party you throw (or attend), or are preparing for an upcoming quiz, we have compiled for you some facts and figures that you could use.
- Skull surgeries have been traced back all the way to the stone age. Primitive skulls have been found with holes drilled and cut into them, somewhere the bones have partially regrown, proving that at least sometimes there were survivors of these surgeries. The purpose of the operations is unclear, but there has been speculation amongst scientists as to the benefit they were trying to attain.
- A lot of the treatments in ancient civilizations were based on the use of magic. This is because they believed that evil spirits and black magic caused disease. These treatments were brutal, and sometimes, the affected would be isolated to contain the spread of the disease.
- Around 3000 BC, in Egypt, a doctor called Sekhet-each was recorded to have healed the Pharaoh’s nostrils. Although we don’t quite know what he treated the Pharaoh for, it is of considerable significance because this is the first recorded doctor in history. Four hundred years later, in 2600BC, another doctor has been recorded in history as being the minister of the Pharaoh.
- The first written records of medicine date back to 1500BC. This was in the form of a medical book called Ebers Papyrus, and this documentation was of ancient Egyptian treatments to keep track of what worked and what didn’t. A lot of the treatments recorded were still based on magic, but this was the first step towards the advancement of medicine.
- Egyptians were all about advancement, and therefore we have another fact from their era. Egyptian doctors used herbs and minerals to cure illnesses. They sometimes incorporated these herbs into the dough to form pills of some sort that were then ingested with alcoholic drinks.
- Curare, a muscle relaxant now commonly used in the field of modern medicine, was once smeared onto the tips of arrows to paralyze the prey while hunting. This practice started in the Amazonian forest inhabitants.
- In the Susrutasamhita, an Indian text on medicine, one physician known as Susruta and believed to be the founding father of Indian medicine, has recorded as many as 1120 diseases, listed 760 medicinal drugs, and recorded the surgeon’s tools to be 130, 20 of which are sharp tools and 110 are blunt tools.
- The first medical schools were founded in Greece and the Greek colonies around 500 BC. The Greeks practised herbal medicine but also prayed to the God of health Asclepius. The Greek was also the first to identify that the human body had four humors or liquids and the imbalance of these result in illness. So, to cure the patients, they would try and reestablish balance. For example, if someone had a fever, they were believed to have too much blood and would be made to bleed to cure them.
- Viruses and bacteria were identified as the cause of disease as early as 1 BC. A roman doctor named Varro made this claim and suggested that these “tiny animals”, as he called them, would be carried into our bodies through the nose and mouth by air. His theory couldn’t be tested because of lack of equipment. In 1546, this theory was repeated by a man called Girolamo Fracastoro, who published a book called On Contagion. His theory went untested too.
- Medieval doctors believed that the zodiac sign of a person made them more susceptible to specific ailments. So, they used astrology as a part of their practice.
The journey that medicine has undertaken to reach its current form has been a long one. It has undergone many stages of development and continues to be subject to more and more changes in an attempt to cure even ailments that were previously considered untreatable.
Thank you to Ashlie Lopez from Questions Trivia for providing this guest post.