Sample Research Paper On History Of Medicine

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Medicine, Science, Health, Development, Europe, Medical Science, People, Revolution

Pages: 9

Words: 2475

Published: 2020/11/27


Medical science has evolved over the years and it has been considered one of the most important and most vital reasons why people have longer life spans in the world today. Evidence shows that in the 21st Century, people are living a longer and healthier life than in the Victorian era where life expectancy was just half what we have today in Britain and other developed countries. These advancements are generally credited to the improvement of empiricism and the acceptance of the natural sciences after the Age of Renaissance. These improvements were consolidated over the Industrial Revolution and were modernized in the 20th Century to create the current medical framework and traditions we have today
The purpose of this paper is to examine the main advancements in medical science during the Renaissance in Europe and how medicine evolved from a society where metaphysics and religious beliefs were at the forefront of affairs. The paper will critique how these new ideas and concepts were consolidated during the Industrial Revolution by examining the case of how society got rid of the smallpox in the period.

The Renaissance and Medical Science

Greek and Roman medical scientists like Hippocrates (460-377 BC) and Galen (129-201) consolidated the tradition of using the scientific method that was inherited from the Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians as well as Ancient Greeks to formulate instructions. These normally included ideas and best practices of dealing with pain and other medical causes of discomfort. This was contrary to the tradition of using prayer and other metaphysical actions to deal with pain and disease.
However, during the age of the domination of the Church in Europe, science went through a quagmire and the emphasis was shifted to Christianity and its related doctrines as a means of dealing with disease. This caused the society to follow certain things that were strongly restricted by the Catholic Church which had domination over the European continent. This happened between the years 100AD and approximately 1400 Ad which is widely referred to as the Dark Ages.
In spite of this slow-down in the development of medical science in Christian Europe, a new civilization sprouted in the Arab world between AD 600 and 1,500 AD which is generally known as the Islamic Golden Age. This involved the development of medical practices amongst Arab and Islamic scholars including persons like Ibn al-Nafis who introduced views on matters like pulmonary circulation and sought to institute and develop Greco-Roman medical treatment systems and processes. This made the science of medicine grow and thrive in the Arab world at that period.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the Church had dominated the scene and science was discouraged within that era. One of the most significant aspect of the Church’s presence was the exiling of many European Jewish scholars who ended up in the Arab world and learnt and contributed to the development of medical science in this period. Many of these Jewish medical scholars and their ideologies were returned to Europe at some point later that contributed to the growth and enhancement of medical science.
The period of the Renaissance, which started in the 16th Century sought to question some of the views of the Church on various matters and issues including science and medical practice. This questioned the fundamental elements of magic and superstition that had gained the main footing in the era of the domination of the nobles who were aided by the Church. The main feature of this was the development of medical science as a means of treating wounded soldiers on the battlefield. This is because these soldiers were fundamentally necessary to ensure the domination of the various kings and leaders in an era where wars were common and widespread. Therefore, there was the need to get a way of treating them and providing emergency relief in war. This borrowed many practices and systems that goes back to the Roman times where medical science and a medical unit was essential for the success of the many Roman legions. This caused the field of surgery to be developed and enhanced over the years.
At the age of Reformation and the Renaissance, there was a major trend towards the creation and maintenance of scientific methods and approaches to issues and matters. Therefore, it was in this period that some medical scientists and practitioners developed who used biomedical, historical (sociological) or philosophical approaches to studying diseases and providing cures to these infirmities. This was a period where most authorities used scientific and medical logic to deal with issues and matters and provide solutions to diseases. The implication was that most countries created medical science as a specialized unit that had a unique function of medicating and dealing with diseases and ailments.
Another distinct feature of the Renaissance was that it gave impetus for the regularization of the Medical profession in most countries. This is because most of these countries did not have authorities that were to set standards for the treatment of diseases and sicknesses. The Renaissance allowed states to come up and regulate medical practice and get professionals to work according to a series of laid-down rules and regulations. In effect, laws were made that laid the foundation for the creation of a medical department and these countries and this allowed the nations of Europe to get a basis for research and practice and also the institutionalization of new methods and approaches of healing patients.

Industrial Revolution & Medical Science

The Medieval period was fundamentally an era where Europe was divided into the Protestant and Catholic camp and a lot of wars were fought to establish controls in different parts of the continent. Therefore, war was a catalyst for the development of methodologies for easing pain and treating diseases. This also gave impetus for the institutionalization of successful practice by the acceptance of Medicine as a significant part of European States in the age of the Renaissance.
One other variable that changed Europe significantly was the rapid development of new technology for the improvement of production on the continent. A historian of note, Dan Cruickshank identified that the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850) came with more diseases due to the ability to travel over large areas and make contacts with diseases that were previously unknown in Europe and poor eating habits due to new methods of producing foods.
This compelled the Europeans of that era to come up with new measures and mechanisms for the treatment of these health-related excesses. Due to the fact that scientific methods and approaches were known in that era, the Industrial Revolution gave impetus for the need for cure through scientific methods. However, due to the fact that people were now advanced in their view of situations and matters and society was more advanced, most people rejected quack cures and superstitious medication of problems and matters relating to health.
The first element of this transition is said to be linked to the development of what became known as the “germ theory”. This was a popular belief that sicknesses and diseases are caused by germs, rather than spirits and other superstitious views. The result was that, people were more concerned with trying to deal with these unseen living things and get to control them in order to get a better health and cure to many sicknesses and diseases.
Additionally, there was the need to remain clean and hygienic in the 1700s and 1800s as a means of preventing diseases. This created the awareness that sicknesses are not caused by spirits or a kind of punishment for evil deeds. This allowed the society as a whole to embrace the need to get medical treatments that were steeped in medical sciences. From another angle, it can be said that the move towards sanitation and dealing with medical challenges meant that the idea of using scientific methods to control microbes and other minute living things left the domain of academia and spread to the lay members of society.
This was a time when life expectancy was about 36 for most people around the world and at that time, nations known as developed today were still living like underdeveloped nations of today. Hence, the problem of poor health and serious sicknesses were all over the place and there was the need to transpose the elements and new gains of the Industrial Revolution to the improvement of the health of the people of Europe and the new Eurocentric communities around the world including the Americas and other colonies around the world.
The fact that the society accepted the scientific method en masse meant that there was the possibility to streamline the medical sector and other related entities. Therefore, nations in Europe and Eurocentric societies formed medical associations that were given the power by the ruling authority to practice medicine. These medical associations were made up of people who used scientific approaches and scientific methods to train their professionals.
The creation of a recognized medical system culminated in the growth and enhancement of related institutions and activities. For instance, pharmacy and medical education also came with the institution of a medical sector. This is because there was the need to use advanced chemical theories to develop medications that were appropriate for the treatment of patients. These medications were also exported to other parts of the world. This was to provide important solutions to sicknesses and challenges that were related to health.
Medical training caused universities like Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard to focus on medical treatments and the use of scientific methods and approaches to deal with issues and matters. The implication was that there were better means through which people could be trained and objectively integrated into the medical industry. Medical education also gave impetus for the need to develop related sciences and related units that were to be applied in dealing with problems and issues. Thus, areas like botany and nutrition were created to complement medical science.
Surgical practice that was practiced in old times were also improved and enhanced during the Industrial Revolution. This is because the practitioners were regulated and through this, ethical standards and rulings in courts were established. This created a conduit through which medical science could be carried out.

The Small Pox and the Evolution of Medicine

In order to understand the impact of the Industrial Revolution on Medicine, this research will examine the situation relating to smallpox which devastated Europe for numerous generations. Smallpox is a sickness that causes the patient to get pimples and boils that eventually caused the death of most of its victims before the year 1800. It is caused by a virus and this is spread through the air and it leads to painful boils that eventually leads to the death of its patients. It could also lead to other related complications like blindness.
Smallpox has been known throughout the generations from Ancient Egypt and was responsible for as many as 400,000 deaths in the 18th Century alone in Europe. Numerous herbal remedies had been developed for the treatment of smallpox and it was viewed as some kind of plague that hit humanity as a punishment from a supernatural source.
In 1796, Edward Jenner identified that there could be a solution to smallpox was to inoculate people with the content of the cowpox virus. Edward Jenner was a doctor who had trained and benefited from the changes that came with the Industrial Revolution and its related improvement and enhancement of medical practice. This implies that he had gained basic training from the well-structured and systematically presented approach to the provision of medical care. This culminated in a knowledgeable individual who had an idea of how to deal with important matters relating to health.
Therefore, Jenner realized that a child who had gotten smallpox survived when he was exposed to the cowpox virus as well. Hence, the logic was that there was something in the cowpox virus that could stall the growing and development of the smallpox in an individual.
This led to a situation whereby Edward Jenner’s experimented this on many patients and this led to the identification of the fact that there was something in the cowpox that could help to curb the smallpox. Therefore, Edward Jenner used this methodology to develop a vaccine that could be administered to patients in a mass inoculation exercise. This led to the idea of vaccination which allowed people to get prevention from major sicknesses and diseases that could be detrimental to their health and development.
The innovative approach used by Jenner was developed and vaccines were developed and presented to different parts of the world. This led to the prevention of people from getting smallpox and suffering from its impact and influence. The result was that numerous people were protected and by 1979, there was an official declaration that stated that smallpox has been eradicated. Thus, the scientific method developed in the period of the Industrial Revolution laid the foundations and drew the main blueprints for the improvement and enhancement of lives.


The study identifies that modern medical science and medical practice evolved from elements of the medieval era. This was a time where things were understood in the context of metaphysics and superstition. Natural science had been pioneered by Greek and Roman scholars who integrated elements of Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian science into health sciences. The advent of the Catholic Church in Europe caused bans to be placed on natural science and this limited its development. As a result of this, the Arabs flourished in their medical science between the years 600AD and 1500 AD. However, the Age of Renaissance led to a process whereby scientific methods were put in place after the influence of the Catholic Church and the nobility waned.
The earliest element of medical science was that it was institutionalized in the secular states of Europe. It was first used as an approach to cure and heal soldiers who were wounded in battle. This led to a method of institutionalizing medical science and recognizing it as a component of society.
The Industrial Revolution brought new challenges to society. There were new diseases spread from faraway lands and poor eating habits and lifestyles that contributed to more diseases. The scientific method was then applied and awareness spread that diseases were caused by micro-organisms rather than spirits. This caused people to embrace sanitation and accept medical science. The result was that it culminated in the training of professionals who could study these and apply them in dealing with medical problems.
The case of Edward Jenner who had been trained in this period demonstrates that medical science developed with the modification of the socio-cultural structures of society. The inoculation of smallpox led to the identification of new methods for the improvement of health. This culminated in the acceptance of new and more efficient methods of dealing with health problems and issues that were steeped in science, rather than metaphysics and superstition.


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