Renaissance Period of Medicine

lab10The renaissance period started in northern Italy during the 14th century and spread to Europe in the late 15th century. It starts from the date of discovery of America by Columbus .The renaissance period of new thinking changed the culture of the English people. Famous people during the renaissance period, both men and women, achieved prominence in the fields of arts, literature, science, exploration and philosophy. Poets and philosophers, painters and musicians , mathematicians and scientists appeared in numbers and swept off age long superstitions and dogmas from the minds of the people and pointed to an age of reasoning and rational approach to the problems of humanity. The Renaissance was a period in European history during which there was a revival in the ideas of ancient Rome and Greece. Culture art and science and medicine were studied by aristocrats and scholars who prized themselves on their education. Although very few people could read and write, Ideas flourished and the newly invented printing press was a revolution in information technology which resulted in spread of ideas and knowledge around Europe never before.

The development of  the scientific spirit
Medicine practiced prior to renaissance period was more an art than a science . Though some jewels of real scientific lusture are witnessed in the writings of Galen and Hippocrates, their followers could not develop the real scientific attitude of mind . The practice of medicine degenerated into a medley of some positive scientific facts and multitude of fads and fancies unwarranted assumptions, imperfect and biased observations, hasty generalizations, false conclusions and most absurd and often torturesome therapeutic practices. Reason came to be overshadowed by strange traditional beliefs and superstitions; authority claimed a superior and often implicit allegiance from the medical profession. But a new spirit was awakened in the European mind during the renaissance period- which goes by the name of the scientific spirit – which had its repercussions in every field of human knowledge.  This period is rightly called the age of reasons and medicine also came under its way.

The scientific spirit means a certain attitude of mind with the following characteristics:-a. It is the spirit of inquiry

All the established beliefs which encounter belong to two categories.

1. The priceless results of generations of experience.

2. Heirloom rubbish

Towards the whole body of belief the scientific attitude of mind is one of unprejudiced is not the spirit of intolerance but the evidence of a mind whose every avenue is open to the approach from every direction.

b. The scientific spirit demands a real connection between an effect and its claimed causes.

c. The scientific spirit keeps one close to facts.

Science implies a mental attitude of intellectual morality characterized by open –mindedness, freedom from prejudice and fairness.

Science and philosophy
Before the renaissance period the Reason of European mind manifested itself through Philosophy but as the reason was not purely developed philosophy was solely speculative ; and it combined best fruits of intuitive reason with the errors of intellectual reason in the form of many unwarranted assumptions, arbitrary conceptions, imperfect observations, hasty generalizations and fallacious conclusions. At first physical sciences were considered a part of philosophy and known as natural philosophy  .with the introduction of  Baconian method of research the physical  sciences developed much more rapidly than the progress of European mind in Philosphy.

Medical research
Medicine remained dominated by the teachings of the church but physicians began to learn more about the human body. They read books translated from Arabic medical texts and began to study anatomy in scientific and systematic way. AndreasVesalius and Leonardo Da Vinci dissected human bodies and made the first anatomical drawings. These helped in understanding the organs and systems of the human body. The church did not permit the dissection of ‘God fearing bodies’ so it was often the bodies of criminals or ‘sinners’ that were used. Doctors learned about anatomy from watching these dissections. Sometimes the criminal was alive at the start of proceedings as part of their punishment.During the Renaissance, the human body was regarded as a creation of God and the ancient Greek view of the four humors prevailed.

Sickness was due to an imbalance in these humors and treatments, such as bleeding the patient or inducing vomiting, were aimed at restoring the balance of these four humors. In 1628, William Harvey published his new theory that the heart acts as a muscular pump which circulates blood around the body in the blood vessels. Discoveries during the Renaissance laid the foundations for a change in thinking leading to the view that the body is made up of specialised systems that work together; the basis of medical knowledge that we still see today.

Renaissance medicine
As the understanding of the body increased, so did the development of new medicines. Building on knowledge of herbs and minerals taken from Arabic writings, Renaissance pharmacists (or apothecaries) experimented with new plants brought from distant lands by explorers like Christopher Columbus. The bark of the Quina tree contained an ingredient called quinine which is still used in the treatment of malaria. The leaves of the tobacco plant were thought to have medicinal properties, although we now know it is responsible for an enormous number of deaths. Laudanum, an opium-based painkiller, was prescribed for many disorders and remained in use up until Victorian times.

However, progress was slow and many medicines remained little more than superstitious potions containing ingredients like worm’s livers and tongue of newt. As new continents were explored, and trade between different parts of the world increased, it allowed the global spread of disease. This often had devastating effects as whole populations were exposed to pathogens against which they had no natural immunity. Bubonic plague moved along trade routes from China and killed more than a third of Europe’s population. When the Spanish colonised South America, they brought smallpox which killed many native Aztecs and Incas.

Diseases can spread rapidly when a pathogen enters a new population that has never been exposed to it. This is because none of the population has any natural immunity to the disease.

Hospitals and healthcare
The majority of people were too poor to be treated by trained doctors. Major cities had hospitals. For example, the Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, treated wealthy patients. These hospitals were amongst the first medical schools in Europe to start teaching medicine. Surgery improved and techniques such as tying wounds to stop bleeding began to be used.Previously, bleeding was stopped by cauterizing, or burning, the wound with red hot metal.Surgical instruments remained basic. A surgeon would perform operations with the most basic set of instruments: a drill, a saw, forceps and pliers for removing teeth. If a trained surgeon was not available,it was usually the local barber who performed operations and removed teeth.

The renaissance and restoration of a european medical tradition
During and after the 12th century A.D., European scholars translated medical texts of Avicenna and other Islamic physicians from Arabic into Latin. In the 13th century, after almost one thousand years of neglect, physicians resumed studies of anatomy. Invention of  gunpower and appreciation and discovery of practical anatomy drew the surgery in renaissance movement However, the emphasis of anatomy and physiology and a focus on physical causes of illness led to the neglect of the Hippocratic philosophy in medicine and an emphasis on the use of drastic remedies to deal with these presumed causes. Physicians tended to ignore the numerous side-effects resulting from such drastic remedies Physicians tended to ignore the numerous side-effects resulting from such drastic remedies. Hippocrates’ philosophy of human ecology was but a faint memory in the minds of physicians, and in the 16th century, Philippus A. Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (known to commoners as Paracelsus) decisively rejected the ideas of Hippocrates and attempted to derive a new philosophy of medicine based on Christian dogma, Neoplatonic philosophy, and the correspondences between the microcosm and the macrocosm; this herculean task may have humbled Mr. von Hohenheim sufficiently to guide him toward observations of nature for ideas. Unfortunately, he placed emphasis on astrology and alchemy, rather than upon empirical observation. He believed that man functioned chemically and that illness could only be treated chemically, and he focused his theories on unseen chemical phenomena, rather than upon observable symptoms and clinical signs. While chemistry plays an undeniable role in human health, emphasis of the unseen over the immediately observable has blinded medicine to this day. During the Renaissance period, numerous theories of health and medicine arose to attempt to remedy the failings of contemporary medical practice. Nicholas Culpeper compiled an eclectic variety of information on many herbs, incorporating a liberal dose of astrology, yet he ignored and deleted references to the “hot and cold” nature of remedies.

Numerous creative physicians attempted to restore the logical foundation and philosophical vantage points lost during the disintegration of the Roman Empire, but most of these attempts suffered from an excess of religious speculation and philosophical theorizing, and a deficiency of attention to symptoms, clinical signs, and other empirical phenomena.

Important  personalities in the field of medicine during renaissance period

Leonardo Da Vinci(1452-1592)
He was originally a god gifted artist. His appreciation of naturalism &deep insight made him to contribute remarkable drawing of human anatomical pictures.he was first to demonstrate the ventricles of brain by wax injection and to depict correctly the foetus and its membrane within the uterus. Originally he engaged to study the bones muscles in relation to art &persued his investigation to study the deeper parts of the body, viscera, brain blood vessels and more specially the heart.

Andreas Vasalius
He belonged to medical family. He was a professor of anatomy at Padua in 1537.he secretly collected a skeleton of a criminal from a gallows outside the city wall.It helped him in his studies.Defying the Galen’s authority, he published large plates of anatomical drawings known as ‘TABULA ANATOMICAE.

Many figures represented body in action.vasalius corrected  in showing  that the lower jaw consisted of a single bone and the sternum was composed only of three parts not seven.he observed valves of vein and each artery supplying a viscus is accompained by a vein.In the first edition of his book he admitted the existance of minute pores in the interventricular septum but  in 1555 ultimately admitted that there was no pores.Vasalius was succeeded by Realdus Columbus(1510-1599) who succeeded in demonstrating Pulmonary was published in his book DERE ANATOMICA in 1557.

‘In the 16th  century the most disputed person of the time was PARACELSUS. While still a youth Paracelsus became aware of many of the conflicting currents of his age. His father was a physician in Einsiedeln and he practiced in a number of mining towns. The boy surely learned some practical medicine at home through observing his father. It is likely that he learned some folk medicine as well. He also picked up some alchemy from his father who had an interest in the subject. And in mining towns he would have observed metallurgical practices as well as the diseases that afflicted the men who worked the mines.

Traditionally it has been said that Paracelsus was taught by several bishops and the occultist abbot of Sponheim, Johannes Trithemius. At the age of fourteen the boy left home to begin a long period of wandering. He apparently visited a number of universities, but there is no proof that he ever took a medical degree. As an adult, however, he picked up practical medical knowledge by working as a surgeon in a number of the mercenary armies that ravaged Europe in the seemingly endless wars of the period. He wrote that he visited most of the countries of Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe.

It is only in the final fifteen years of his life that the records of his travels become clearer. In 1527 he was called to Basel to treat a leg ailment of the famed publisher of humanist classics, Johannes Frobenius. In Basel Paracelsus also gave medical advice to the Dutch scholar Erasmus and came in contact with some of the more prominent scholars of the religious Reformation. He was appointed city physician and professor of medicine. But although he was permitted to lecture at the University of Basel, he had no official appointment with the medical faculty there.He was a voluminious writer and himself predicted that his writing may be understood 20 years after his death.

Almost immediately Paracelsus became a figure of contention. He heaped scorn on the conservative physicians of the University, and, at the St. John’s Day bonfire, threw Avicenna’s revered Canon of medicine to the blaze. Then, his patient, Frobenius, died. This was followed by a disastrous lawsuit and he left Basel in haste, even leaving behind his manuscripts.

The final years of his life find Paracelsus moving from town to town, and again, he often left his manuscripts behind as he had in Basel. He comes across as an angry man who antagonized many of those he met — even those who tried to help him. In the end he was called to Salzburg to treat the suffragan bishop, Ernest of Wittelsbach. There he died at the early age of forty-eight.

Paracelsus was a advocater of chemical view of life .in his principle work which he called as PARAMIRUM,SULPHUR,MERCURY,SALT.sulphur burns, mercury becomes smoke& salt becomes ash. All diseases depend upon the maladjustment of the three.

Among many  others still  remembered.Ambroise Pare  for his surgical attempts.

Pierre Franco was first person to perform a subpubic lithotomy.wrote an article on hernia. He had great success on operation on cataract. Free Jacques&Frere Jean who practised surgery.Amongthe many anatomist two names Gabriel Fallopius (1526-62) for his discovery of AQUEDUCT and tubes which bear his name Bartolomeus Eustachius who was head of the Department of Anatomy at Rome is remembered for accurate illustration of THORACIC DUCT , CILLARY MUSCLES , details of FASCIAL MUSCLES, LARNYX, KIDNEY.Thomas Vicary was the first master of the united company of Barber’s Surgeon and rapidly became the chief to the king Henry VIII.his book is titled as ‘A TREASURE FOR ENGLISH MEN’, containing the anatomic of man’s body.

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