Thursday, 19 September 2013

John Hunter

John Hunter was born on 13 February 1728 in Long Calderwood, East Kilbride, Scotland and died 16 October 1793 at the age of 65 because of a heart attack. He is a well-known surgeon and anatomist and some name him as ‘one of the fathers of modern medicine’. He was an early supporter of careful observation and scientific method in medicine. The Hunterian Society of London was named in his honour for his brilliant work in medicine. His wife was Anne Hunter, the friend of Edward Jenner, the inventor of the smallpox vaccine.

His was the youngest of ten and grew up on his family’s small farm. In his early life, he despised school and hated books. He went to a grammar school in East Kilbride, but he would rather have looked after insects and animals. When he was 20, he wrote to his brother, William, to see if he could join him in London, since he was a famous obstetrician. He agreed and John Hunter assisted him on his preparations for the autumn term since William was a teacher. He excluded brilliant talent in anatomy and was soon made Master of Surgeon at Surgeon’s Hall. He later wrote his first book: Natural History of Human Teeth and coined the terms molar, incisors and cuspids (canines). He is now known as one the most important surgeons of all time.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Ancient Greek Roman Medicine eBook

You can now get a cheap eBook containing my posts about ancient Greek and Roman Medicine, Hippocrates and Galen. Buy now!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Renaissance

The Renaissance was a time of knowledge, it means ‘rebirth.’ It started because of the Church’s authority becoming lesser than the monarch’s authority, called the ‘Reformation of the Church.’ Due to this, many people started to prove Galen wrong, one of these people was Andreas Vesalius.

Andreas Vesalius was the Professor of Anatomy at the University of Padua, in Italy. He is famous for his very important book: “On the fabric of the human body” it is now considered one of the most influential books on human anatomy. He proved that Galen’s theory of the human jaw consisting of two bones, when actually it was two. He is now considered to be one of the greatest men in the field of anatomy.

Another of these people was William Harvey, who trained at Cambridge and Padua. He was an expert in the field of Physiology. He proved Galen to be wrong, like Vesalius, especially on the fact that blood was not manufactured in the liver and that the veins only carried blood, not a mixture of blood. He also wrote a great book which marked the end of Galen’s influence on physiology: “On the motion of the Heart and Blood.”

Both of these historical figures had shown that Galen was wrong on many things about the human body, mainly because he wrote these ideas with an animal that was similar to a human: a baboon. But nevertheless, Galen was still important in the field of anatomy, even if he was wrong. The Renaissance was a time of knowledge, a time for art, a time for medicine. On the other hand, neither of them actually helped cure disease and some people still believed in Galen and still blood-let people.

By Aynan Muse

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Middle Ages' Medicine

During the middle ages, medical knowledge declined meaning that the life expectancy decreased. Many people believed in superstitions to explain the cause of disease. For example:

·         They believed in astronomy to explain the cause of disease, meaning they believed that the position of the stars and planets stated what disease they had.

·         They believed that illness and disease was a punishment from God

·         They believed in miasma, (bad air caused by rotting meat and burnt wood).

·         They believed that the Jews were poisoning them.

Obviously, none of these beliefs were correct. Also, the Church played a big part in the beliefs of disease; they taught the people of Western Europe that disease was only for the evil, but they also died of illnesses too.

When the people of Western Europe decided to fight the Middle East to claim the ‘Holy City’ they found out about Galen’s ideas of ‘The Theory of Opposites’ and his anatomically incorrect drawings of the body. Because he mentioned that the body had a creator, the Church decided that he was right and they stopped anyone who objected to this idea. Due to this, medical never increased for a while. The Church also banned the dissection of human corpses which made it even harder to prove Galen wrong.

The cures to disease were even worse, they believed that herbs and spices could cure illnesses, prayer and pilgrimage cured disease, holding a bag of lavender cured disease. They also used these ideas to cure the Black Death.

The people of Western Europe during the middle ages had many people who treated them:

·         Physicians – they were trained and qualified, but only the rich could afford them. Also, they were usually male

·         Apothecaries – they trained, but not qualified. They were cheaper and they were also male

·         Barber-Surgeon – they usually just amputated limbs and practiced blood-letting. They also could cut your hair

·         Monks and Nuns – they ran hospitals, but they weren’t like modern hospitals; they were only for the old and those with specific diseases, like leprosy.

·         Wise Woman – the local village elderly woman mixed herbs to treat those who were ill.

·         Flagellants – they whipped themselves because they believed that God was punishing them with a disease, and so they punished themselves to stop God from punished them.

By Aynan Muse

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Ancient Greek and Roman Medicine

Ancient Greek and Roman medicines of the ancient world were more advanced than pre-historic medicines, but not as advanced as modern day medicines. Nevertheless, it did help to improve the treatment of the ill during those times which did help to improve treatments in the future.
Hippocrates was by far the best physician in Ancient Greek. Although his teachings were wrong, he was the first to debate the ideas that the Greek Gods caused disease. Because of this, he was called the ‘father of medicine’. His first theory was the four humours. The four humours were: blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. His ideas were that if one became ill, it was due to the imbalance of their humours meaning that he was the first to use logic and reasoning to explain the causes of diseases. He, and his followers, was also the first to ­describe certain diseases, such as lung disease, lung cancer, the clubbing of the fingers and heart disease. Also, he was the first documented chest surgeon and his findings are still respected today.
The Greek Galen, who later became Roman, was, quite literally, the greatest surgeon of all time; he was the first to prove that the body was controlled not only by the heart, but mostly by the brain due to nerves. He mostly is quite famous due to his development of Hippocrates’ theory the ‘four humours’. His new theory, which I had said before, was a development of the ‘four humours’ call the ‘Theory of the Opposites’. This theory states that once one of the humours is imbalanced, the best treatment was to have the opposite of that humours. One example is that if the phlegm humour was imbalanced, in simple terms – if you had a cold, you would need to have pepper to treat it. His teachings were carried on throughout the middle ages, due to the church as it was powerful. The role of the church in all this was that they stopped anyone from challenging his theories; one of the ways they stopped these debates was execution.  Because of this, no one dared to challenge Galen’s wrong teachings. One of mistakes he made was that the jaw bone consists of two bones and he was mistaken about the shape of the liver too.
By Aynan Muse

Monday, 29 October 2012


Andreas Vesalius was born in 1514 in Brussels and died in 1564 in Zakynthos. He was an anatomist, physician and author who created seven brilliant scientific books on anatomy: De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (The Seven Books on the Structure of the Human Body). Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy.

In 1528, Vesalius attended the University of Leuven taking arts, but he moved to Paris where he studied Galen’s works in the University of Paris. He developed an interest in anatomy here and was often found studying bones in the Cemetery of the Innocents. Vesalius was forced to move out of Paris, due to hostility between France and the Holy Roman Empire. He returned to Leuven and studied in the University of Leuven again, but graduated the next year. He left briefly after a dispute with his professor. He then went to the University of Padua in 1536 to receive his doctorate and received it in 1537.

On his graduation he was offered the chair of Surgery and Anatomy at Padua. He also guest lectured in Bologna and Pisa. Previously these topics were read from classic texts, mainly Galen, followed by an animal dissection by the barber-surgeon. No attempt was made to check Galen’s claims. Vesalius on the other hand, carried out dissection as a primary teaching tool, while students viewed his work around the table. He kept drawings of his work for his students in the form six large illustrated tables. When he found that some of the drawings were widely copied, he published these tables under the title Tabulae Anatomicae Sex.

In 1541, Vesalius uncovered the fact that Galen’s research was based on the bodies of animals, not humans. This was due to the fact that, in Ancient Rome, dissection was banned. Galen had mainly used the body of a species of ape, as he believed that this body was the closest to a human’s. Because of this, Vesalius corrected Galen’s Opera omnia and wrote down his own anatomical texts. Until Vesalius pointed this out, it had long gone unnoticed and was the foundation of anatomical teachings. Although Vesalius was right, people still believed Galen’s claims and they also believed that Vesalius was wrong.

Later Vesalius stirred up some more disagreement. This time, not only disproving Galen, but also Aristotle, all three had made hypotheses of the functions and structure of the heart, which were clearly wrong. For example, Vesalius had noted that the heart had four chambers; the liver four lobes and the fact that arteries came from the heart. Another example would be, when he disproved Galen’s assumption that the jaw bone was made up of two, when actually, it was made up of one.

Galen assumed that arteries carried blood to the more important organs, such as the brain from the left ventricle of the heart, and that veins carried blood to the lesser organs, such as the stomach from the right ventricle of the heart. In order for this theory to be true, there would need to be a hole to interconnect these ventricles and Galen said that he had found this hole. So for nearly 2000 years, people believed that there really was a hole, until Vesalius proved Galen wrong. Vesalius had said that there was no hole.

Because of Vesalius’ findings, modern medicine owes Vesalius for advancing human anatomy. By overturning people’s traditions of Galen’s ideas, Vesalius helped people for nearly 1000 years in the study of human anatomy.

My conclusion is that Vesalius is very important figure in the study of anatomy. So Vesalius would really be the founder of modern human anatomy.

By Aynan Muse

Picture does not belong to Medical History 101


Galen was born in 129AD and died 200AD. He was a Roman (with Greek ethnicity) physician and surgeon. He contributed greatly in fields of anatomy*, physiology*1 and pathology*2. Because he was the son of Aelius Nicon, a wealthy architect, Galen received a comprehensive education, which would help him as a physician in his later life. He travelled far and wide, which helped him learn about many medical theories, before settling in Rome where he was a personal physician to several emperors.
Galen throughout his life dissected animals to know how the body worked. He discovered that urine was produced in the kidneys, not the bladder which was common belief. Although he discovered many scientific breakthroughs within anatomy, his most important discovery was that arteries carried blood, but he did not discover circulation. Even though he made fantastic discoveries, he did make mistakes. For example he said that the jaw bone was made up of two bones, when actually it was made up of one bone. Another would be when he said that blood was created in the liver (when actually, it is not) and that blood was fuel which was burnt up for muscles.
Hippocrates’ theory of the four humours helped Galen understand how the body worked (though he made some mistakes), but he knew that Hippocrates’ theory wouldn’t help make treatments for the ill. Due to this, Galen made his own theory called ‘Theory of Opposites’. This theory was a development of Hippocrates’ own theory. This theory was used for nearly 2000 years to treat the ill. One example of the theory was when, if you have a cold (too much phlegm), you should have something hot, like pepper. This would help to restore the body’s natural balance. This theory was wrong, but even if this theory was wrong, it helped physicians in the future to know how to actually treat patients.
The judgement of this person is that, even though he made many mistakes, he did help physicians and surgeons in the future learn how to actually treat patients. So Galen is definite one of the most important figures in medicine.

By Aynan Muse

*Anatomy is the study of the structure of animals
*1Physiology is the study of living thing’s bodily functions
*2Pathology is the study of the causes and effects of diseases.
Picture does not belong to Medical History 101