History of Medicine

by Michael Glenister

It started with herbalism long ago, as medicinal plants, their berries, and peelings;
Were used by shamans and apothecaries for healings.
The Egyptians, like Imhotep, developed public health systems,
But despite the first surgery, were full of strange superstitions.
The Kahun Papyrus described gynaecological problems like conception;
19th Dynasty workers had medical insurance, sick leave, and a pension.
The Babylonians gave us diagnosis, prognosis, and physical examination;
But the Torah added quarantine, hygiene, and basic santitation.
Iron Age India still believed in exorcism of demons and magic;
But their procedures for surgery are much less tragic.
They defined the purpose of medicine to cure diseases and prolong life;
In the Susruta, description of diseases and surgical instruments is rife.
Internal, surgery, E.N.T., paediatrics, aphrodisiacs, spirit, rejuvenation, and toxicology;
Are now the eight branches of medicine to study, but they include obstetrics and pathology.
Unfortunately Unani medicine, like the ancient Greek ideas, raises its head;
Is it an imbalance of fluids, like humours, that makes you sick, or dead?
The ideas, oath, and work of Hippocrates still lingers;
He’s credited for describing clubbing of the fingers.
He categorized illnesses as acute, chronic, endemic, and epidemic;
Medical students say his oath, but treatment and prognosis are polemic.
In Alexandria they placed intelligence in the brain;
While Herophilus distinguished between arteries, and veins.
Erasistratus studied physiology, but believed in a vital spirit pumped to the brain;
While Galen in Greece performed brain and eye surgery, but not without pain.
The Romans invented numerous surgical instruments including the specula;
Unfortunately Medieval ideas of disease were not purely secular.
The Crusaders fought Muslims wearing tunic crosses in red;
But to Europe Islamic hospitals inspired and spread.
Avicenna gave us quarantines, clinical trials, and descriptions of STD;
He treated fevers with ice, and distinguished mediastinitis from pleurisy.
Describing pulmonary and coronary circulation, led to new systems of physiology;
The Black Death and Van Leeuwenhoek’s microbiology led to bacteriology and virology.
Semmelweis reduced the death rate by making physicians wash their hands;
Lister proved antisepsis, so the idea transmitted to other lands.
Gregor Mendel studied classical genetics, and thought pea plants would do the trick;
His discovery led to molecular biology, and the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick.
Pasteur and Bernard confirmed the germ theory as they pasteurized;
Leading Koch to found bacteriology, and to win a Nobel Prize.
Florence Nightingale and Elizabeth Blackwell threw male doctors into a loop;
Women in medicine was a shock, but so was discovering the ABO blood group.
The First World War inspired the development of x-rays and the ECG;
As well as the antibiotic penicillin for antimicrobial therapy.
So with the advent of evidence-based medicine, and advances in information technology;
We end with transplants, and the Human genome project in this chronology…