This article is about the history of human medicine. For that of veterinary medicine, see History andrew gordon a modern history of japan pdf veterinary medicine.
The history of medicine shows how societies have changed in their approach to illness and disease from ancient times to the present. Early medical traditions include those of Babylon, China, Egypt and India. Over time through emulation of the behavior of fauna a medicinal knowledge base developed and passed between generations. Ancient Egypt developed a large, varied and fruitful medical tradition. Medical information in the Edwin Smith Papyrus may date to a time as early as 3000 BC. The Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus treats women’s complaints, including problems with conception. Thirty four cases detailing diagnosis and treatment survive, some of them fragmentarily.
Medical institutions, referred to as Houses of Life are known to have been established in ancient Egypt as early as 2200 BC. The earliest known physician is also credited to ancient Egypt: Hesy-Ra, “Chief of Dentists and Physicians” for King Djoser in the 27th century BCE. Babylonian cylinder seal and sketch depicting Nergal, god of plague, symbolized by the crooked stick. The oldest Babylonian texts on medicine date back to the Old Babylonian period in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE.
Along with the Egyptians the Babylonians introduced the practice of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, and remedies. In addition, the Diagnostic Handbook introduced the methods of therapy and cause. The text contains a list of medical symptoms and often detailed empirical observations along with logical rules used in combining observed symptoms on the body of a patient with its diagnosis and prognosis. The Diagnostic Handbook was based on a logical set of axioms and assumptions, including the modern view that through the examination and inspection of the symptoms of a patient, it is possible to determine the patient’s disease, its cause and future development, and the chances of the patient’s recovery. There was little development after the medieval era. Major European treatises on medicine took 200 years to reach the Middle East, where local rulers might consult Western doctors to get the latest treatments. Medical works in Arabic, Turkish, and Persian as late as 1800 were based on medieval Islamic medicine.
The Atharvaveda, a sacred text of Hinduism dating from the Early Iron Age, is one of the first Indian text dealing with medicine. The Atharvaveda also contain prescriptions of herbs for various ailments. Ayurveda, meaning the “complete knowledge for long life” is another medical system of India. Its two most famous texts belong to the schools of Charaka and Sushruta. According to the compendium of Charaka, the Charakasamhitā, health and disease are not predetermined and life may be prolonged by human effort. As an alternative form of medicine in India, Unani medicine got deep roots and royal patronage during medieval times. It progressed during Indian sultanate and mughal periods.