Medicine: The Definitive Illustrated History
One of the greatest figures in the history of medicine, Hippocrates of ancient Greece, believed that “A wise man should consider health as the greatest human blessing…
To physicians: Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always… And make a habit of two things: Help; or at least, do no harm.” While these words are more than 2,300 years old, their sentiments still ring true today. Good health is a most precious commodity and in the modern world medicine has achieved towering status. Many nations spend more than one-tenth
of their entire wealth on prevention and treatment of illness and allied health services.
The origins of medicine are hazy, but it is known that all great ancient civilizations had specialists in healing arts, as each region around the world developed knowledge and learning in the area. Varied traditions arose, some effective, but many bound up with spells and curses, spirits, demons, and other supernatural entities. Progress toward modern medicine quickened from about the 16th century, especially in Europe. Here, the Renaissance led to the rise of organized observation, recording, experimentation, analysis, and a rational, evidence-based approach, and medicine evolved from art to science.
The past two centuries have seen momentous advances—vaccination; antiseptics; anesthetics; the discovery of germs and the antibiotics to fight them; improved diet, hygiene, and sanitation; numerous uses for radiation; body imaging; transplants and implants; and progress against cancers.
The average patient’s experience has changed immeasurably since ancient times. But there are still abundant inequalities around the world and challenges to meet, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other epidemic infections; chronic diseases of the respiratory and circulatory systems; and the provision of clean water, adequate nutrition, and comprehensive vaccination for all. The 21st century also sees major new treatments emerging, such as therapies exploiting genes and stem cells, and the prospect of tailor-made “personalized medicine.”
All of these topics and more are covered in the following chapters. The history of medicine is a vast subject, but this book throws a spotlight onto what has been, the giant strides that medicine has achieved, and how the balance between health and illness looks set to improve for future generations.
|September 5, 2022
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