Talk:History of medicine

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Wikipedians, why don't you just admit it? You are trying very hard to rewrite history to your own liking to make it seem as if Asians played an equal role (or an even greater role) to Europeans when it comes to the creation of modern science (whether we are talking about medicine, astronomy, physics etc....). I have read a great deal of books in the past few years that go into detail on the history of various scientific fields. When all the facts are laid out, Europeans, including Ancient Greeks, are largely responsible for the advanced state that science as we know it, is in today. Yes, I know that other civilizations made some important contributions, but this doesn't mean we should be augmenting their histories and making our own facts up about them in order to put them on the same level as Western Civilization. I notice a lot of contradictions in your articles. First, you go into a long and specious list of accomplishments done by past Asian civilizations, to the point where an average uneducated reader would come to the false conclusion that Asians were largely responsible for forming the foundations of all of our modern sciences. I guess such a thing as the Greeks never existed according to the writers of Wikipedia. Then, you suddenly jump into the modern era, throwing out name after name of European scientists. It is as if you expect the reader to come to the conclusion that these brilliant European scientists of the 1600s and 1700s got all of their knowledge from Asia. This begs the question as to why Asians weren't the first to create the modern world. Of course, the answer to all this confusion is simple. It WAS NOT largely Asians in ancient times who were creating the foundations of modern science. It was Greeks. And it also just happens to be the case that not much was done with science (after the Greeks) until the Europeans started fooling around with science again after coming out of the Dark Ages. Is what I am saying Eurocentric? No, what I am saying simply reflects the facts as they are. --Cftiger 13:30 November 26, 2006.

"Modern" science began in Asia and Africa (Egypt) and then spread to Europe via Greek scholars who studied in these places. Knowledge of it was lost by Europeans in the Dark Ages, but was brought back to Europe by the Muslims in the Middle Ages. Drutt 11:25, 6 March 2007 (UTC)

Please give me examples of how the science in Asia during those times was "modern". --Cftiger 10:01 April 22, 2007.

Do accept my apology, but I find it very hard to believe that you've actually done your research. If you had, you would know that Muslims in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Andalucian Spain have made an essential, revolutionary contribution to modern science (including mathematics, chemistry, physics, astronomy and medicine). To say that they were merely a bridge in time is a huge understatement, bordering on naiveness. Ibn Sina, was known in Europe by the latin name Avicenna and considered the father of modern medicine. He wrote The Canon of Medicine, which was the most influential book on medicine for over 600 years. Today, it is still regarded as one the most important medical books ever written. It is in fact, still being sold. Al-Razi was equally influential in the Field of medicine. Al Khawarizmi, a Muslim mathematician who was responsible for the development of Algebra and Trignometry; the basis of today's computer technology. He was also the first to identify the value zero in a valid equation. These names are but a minute fraction in a vast sea of scientists originating in the Muslim world, all who made valuable contributions to modern science. I urge you to do further research, and to do so rigorously. You will find that the few facts I mentioned here, are indeed a small fraction of a more extensive world.
The Muslims took the basis of their knowledge laregely from Ancient Greek works, as well as from China, Persia, India and Egypt. They did however excel, and make their own revolutionary breakthroughs, in sciences, as well as institutions including the first hospitals and universities.

War, invasion, civil war and corruption brought the end of this civilation's golden age, it's unique wealth of knowledge was passed on to the west and ushered in an era of a renewed Europe; the Renaissance. It is the way of history; with the end of any civilization, there is the rise of another, to whom the experience and knowledge of the fallen are passed on. This is how we humans progress. WHO'S NEXT?? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:45, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Hear hear!!! Brilliant. Please join you'd make a wonderful editor. Well you see some people are racially prejudiced and xenophobic. The facts are all there in history. Please look them up. Lord of Moria Talk Contribs 17:12, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

re-wrote Greek and Roman section[edit]

I made some significant changes to this section, which was badly cluttered with all sorts of irrelevant stuff, was badly organized, and didn't give enough emphasis on what's important. Hope you like it. --Tsourkpk (talk) 12:21, 26 October 2008 (UTC)

Someone should make a note that it was Thomas Linacre who actually translated Galen's On Hygiene into Latin!!! Also, that Vesalius was against Galen's original findings for the anatomy of humans. Galen had originally dissected animals, and assumed human anatomy was the same. Vesalius originated HUMAN dissection and proved Galen's theories wrong. In doing so, brought about the idea of human anatomy to Padua through the book De Fabrica Corporis Humani, which in turn taught Fabricius who later developed new idea's for physiology and disproved Galen's theories once again. William Harvey studied under Fabricius, and later developed the idea of circulation and the heart as a pump, which disproved Galen's theories about blood dispersing and dissipating. (Jen)

Hebrew Medicine Section[edit]

This section should be integrated into another section if mentioned at all. The Hebrew contributions to medicine are probably most important in how they influence Muslim and Christian thought as it relates to medicine. Additionally, the section focuses mainly on cleanliness rituals, which are a part of many cultures in that have more adherents than Judaism. Let me be clear, I am Jewish - I still feel this section does not deserve its section alongside Egyptian, Persian and Greek medicine. Would like to see discussion about how best to fold this into another section and better show its relevance. Enviropearson (talk) 02:48, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

Few notes about the article[edit]

The introduction implies that all that is know before the scientific medicine are superstitious explanations. There were superstitious explanations, but not just that. Some treatments were based on trial and error. The body describes various ethnic or countries medicines, without hinting at whether they contributed anything to modern medicine. Or whether they have any validity now. Also, the articles does note the key discoveries of medicine with sufficient detail. --Natkeeran (talk) 21:50, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

15th-17th century medicine[edit]

It's far beyond my abilities to attempt such a thing, but the section on medieval and early modern is very much weighted toward the medieval, and the whole Renaissance/Reformation is virtually elided -- a time when physicians were among the major intellectuals of the time, and often also mathematics, astronomers, etc. Also a time in the history of European medicine when Islamic medicine and medical systems of antiquity were actively explored. Cynwolfe (talk) 17:15, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Unbalanced coverage of harm done by western medical practice in the 18th through early 20th century[edit]

A survey of medical publications from the late 18th century through the early 20th century shows that doctors who followed the most widely accepted practice of medical establishment techniques in the 19th century (and to a lesser extent in the 18th and early 20th century) commonly dosed most every patient with a mercury compound called calomel, which resulted in serious immediate and long term harm. This was as a "cathartic" to "purge" the "poisons" out of the patient. Antimony was another widely used harmful drug. There does not appear to have been much testing of the effectiveness and safety, and handwaving assertions were given that such administration of what are now considered poisons of no benefit had "cured" numerous ailments. A similar universal practice was the removal of blood from the patient, again apparently to "remove poisons." Bloodletting and calomel have been criticized as contributing to the deaths of former President George Washington and President Harrison. I started a discussion of this on the Reference Desk on 18 February 2009 under the heading "Why did doctors administer calomel and bleeding in the 18th and 19th century?" which includes(with slight edits): Calomel is a mercury compound which doctors in many countries routinely administered to anyone who was sick or injured in the 18th and 19th century. "Calomel" redirects to Mercury(I) chloride. That article says it was given as a "purgative" until the patient salivated, but [[Purgative} redirects to Laxative. Which end of the patient was the doctor trying to get something from? Benjamin Rush used it in the 1790's to "remove poisons from the body" although the calomel was itself known to be poisonous and ancient medical writers had said as much. Did no one in the medical colleges try a series of patients with and without administration of that poison and bleeding? Physicians and surgeons of the 19th century administered calomel and bleeding to patients with almost all sorts of injuries or infections. Mercury compounds and bleeding along with other likely lethal treatments were given to President Harrison ([1] Botanico-Medical Recorder, 1841,Vol X, No. 2, page 22). That publication charged (1841, Vol X, No 1., pagepage 23) that calomel and bleeding had likewise killed former President Washington. I find botanical doctors to be the ones criticizing mercury as the standard cureall of the 19th century medical establishment ([2] Vol X, No. 1, Oct 16, 1841, pages 13-15), along with bleeding. Only around 1910 do books seem to cite data showing calomel was ineffective and detrimental to health." The section History of medicine#Modern medicine is unbalanced in stating only the advances in the 19th century in the germ theory of disease, virology, and bacteriology, without noting the fanatical adherence to harmful medical practices by most practitioners. (End passage). I do not have access to recent medical books and journals which might include historic overviews of this unsavory aspect of standard medical practice from say 1790 to 1910, but would appreciate someone who is medically qualified and has access to reliable and recent sources editing the section in question to provide balance. Edison (talk) 23:00, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

One apparently reliable source documenting and criticizing this long aberration is [3] "American Medicine in Transition, 1840-1910" by John S. Haller, U. of Illinois Press, 1981, pages 77-90. Edison (talk) 23:34, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
From reliable sources such as [4] "American Physicians in the Nineteenth Century" By William G. Rothstein, 1992, it looks like there should be a section called "Heroic medicine" inserted before "Modern medicine." Benjamin Rush and the other bloodletters and calomel pushers were the "allopaths" or "regular doctors" as opposed to the various alternative doctos such as Thomsonites who sweated their patients, spinal manipulators, and herbalists. The latter three groups may not have had greater curative power, but probably killed or directly harmed fewer patients than those who dosed every patient with calomel and drained blood with the lancet. This was not scientific medicine, but was based on ancient humoral notions or discredited phlogiston theory, and its founders such as Rush did not keep accurate case records, or do experiments comparing the effectiveness of different treatments, but offered only anecdotes of amazing cures. Edison (talk) 23:58, 18 February 2009 (UTC)


I notice that when you search for History of doctors, there is no page with that title. Perhaps History of doctors could redirect here... I didn't want to make a redirect without hearing everyone's opinion first, though. EscapeByMusic —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:52, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

article on the field?[edit]

Is there a Wikipedia article under some other title about the field called "medical history" or "history of medicine", discussing its development, key figures, historiographic debates, etc.? I'm thinking of an article that would discuss the sorts of people in Category:Medical historians. The two obvious titles cover other things: this article is on the history of medicine itself, while the article at medical history is on patient records. For what it's worth, the German-language equivalent of this article, de:Medizingeschichte, discusses the field in the same article. --Delirium (talk) 04:24, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

I don't think there is such an article (we have very, very few historians of medicine who edit). The place for it would probably be historiography of medicine, and/or history of medicine (discipline).--ragesoss (talk) 04:51, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

Prehistoric Medicine edit[edit]

The article as written claimed that the cave paintings at the Lascaux Cave included depictions of medicinal plants. According to the French Ministry of Culture (who oughta know) this is NOT true. At it says "Neither the landscape outside the cave nor any of the vegetation of the time is portrayed on these walls." Not surprising, because it was an ICE AGE.

Some great archaeological evidence for prehistoric herbalism is out there. There was a peat bog man carrying several polypore fungi (not plants, but still...) Also, herb bundles in caves in North America. I'm sure there are many more examples, but I don't have time to research and write on this topic right now. It would be awesome if somebody did though.

Anne Merrill (talk) 23:22, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

Omissions and areas to enlarge[edit]

Reading the article I think perhaps there should be a greater prominence given to Hippocratic/Galenic humoural theory. Certainly in the west it was the main system of thought for conceptualising illness and medical intervention until well into the 18th century. I think that rather than having the middle ages/early modern section we should create a separate middle ages section and a separate Renaissance section. Perhaps it might be then best to proceed century by century from the 17th century until the end of the 20th century with separate sections for each century. Each century would have two subsections - one detailing changes in medical knowledge (e.g. anatomy, Pasteur, etc) and one detailing medical practice (e.g. bonesetters, midwives, local healers, G.Ps, patent medicines, quacks, mountebanks, bleeding, purgatives, etc) Certain specialities should probably get their own subsections: e.g. surgery, psychiatry. Perhaps also certain topics would need their own section (Public Health). What is also completely missing from here is the story of professionalisation and specialisation - in other words the rise of the medical discipline - and something should be done about that. Also the rise of hospitals. Any opinions?Freekra (talk) 19:47, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

I broadly agree with you. So long as everything is properly sourced, I don't see any problems with your proposal. Be bold, go for it. --Athenean (talk) 06:48, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

This article is completely off balance. Those paragraphs that do have {{main}} articles desperately need cleaning out of irrelevant factoids, they are supposed to be clean WP:SS summaries of the main facts. By contrast, the paragraphs that do not have {{main}} articles, such as the very brief paragraph on the entire Early Modern period, desperately need expansion. --dab (𒁳) 10:44, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

Unreliable source - material[edit]

Content from / FSTC is an unreliable source, as discussed on Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard/Archive_18#History_of_Science. None of its publications are peer-reviewed, and its authors often exhibit a strong bias and incomplete or flawed citation practices. The site has been used as a source in numerous science and history of science articles to make extraordinary claims about Islamic invention and discovery. I am working to remove these extraordinary claims where they stem directly and solely from a reference. Many of these claims were added by a user who has a history of using flawed sources for extraordinary claims, as discussed on Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Jagged_85. That page details numerous examples where claims from these sources contradict more reliable sources, on a scale which casts the entirety of the material originating from the site into doubt. If you would like to discuss this or any related removal with me, please leave a note on my talk page,

Dialectric (talk) 01:36, 26 April 2010 (UTC)

As a participant of the RfC/U, I second that. Athenean (talk) 03:53, 26 April 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for adding your explanation of the edit. Without that discussion, your deletion seemed to be arbitrary or POV.Fconaway (talk) 04:35, 26 April 2010 (UTC)
In fact at least one paper on engages in blatant misrepresentation of its sources. Consider the following paper:
Zaimeche, Salah (March 2005), Merv, Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation 
This makes the claim that:

Al-Khazini most particularly draws attention to the Greeks' failure to differentiate clearly between force, mass and weight (p. 5)

In support of this, the paper cites the book:
Hill, Donald R. (1993). Islamic Science and Engineering. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-0455-5. 
But on checking that source, we find a rather different claim:

al-Khāzinī repeats the vagueness of the Greeks in failing to distinguish clearly between force, mass and weight. (p. 61)

This isn't the only example of such problems in that particular paper. I've not checked the other papers there in any detail, but this one at least is pathetic.
All the best. –Syncategoremata (talk) 10:21, 26 April 2010 (UTC)

Totally unbalanced article[edit]

Considering that in medicine 90% of procedures, technologies, skills, tools, knowledges....have beeen developed by western scientists in "modern era", the room given to them in this article is ridiculously incongruous compared to other civilizations. "Third world" political correctness as always dominates wikipedia articles..... --Magnagr (talk) 12:15, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

But it's a history, and there's a long history of medical practice prior to the modern era. It is not an article directed at the history of current procedures, technologies, skills, tools, knowledge etc. Having said that, the modern section could do with considerable expansion or, indeed, a complete rewrite. I'd like to see a bit of the history of professionalisation in there and the whole attempt to distinguish between the medical doctors and so called irregular medical practitioners and, indeed, at how the whole line was blurred. Also, it would be good to look at the impact of modern medicine on health in the general population etc. Histories of great doctors made this great breakthrought and then another etc are dull and misleading. This is not an attempt to demoralise the profession but the social history should be integrated.
The take on the history of Islamic medicine I find horrible here as elsewhere. It's so nakedly about establishing priority in the discovery of some so-called medical truth that it does incredible violence to Islamic history and is engaged in almost perpetual anachronism. FiachraByrne 04:17, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

re write[edit]

I strongly recommend a re-write of this page Please view this source Prioreschi, Plinio (2001). A History of Medicine: Byzantine and Islamic medicine. Horatius press. ISBN 9781888456042. Retrieved 12 October 2010. Be Bold J8079s (talk) 21:56, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Then provide a strong argument. Why this source?FiachraByrne 04:20, 3 April 2011 (UTC)
I think you will find the take more neutral. also see [5] humoralism and [6] Avicenna medicine and biology. J8079s (talk) 05:37, 3 April 2011 (UTC)
I have no problem with any of those three sources, in fact they all provide proper historical treatments of their subject and would provide an excellent basis for a rewrite. The Iranica Encyclopedia project looks especially interesting. Such a rewrite, in my view, would not be focused on establishing precedence for modern medical "discoveries" but would allow the medical practice, and theory and practitioners of that era, locale and tradition to be understood within their own context. The violence to which other representations of "Islamic medicine" are often apparently inclined towards is that which would translate and attempt to find an equivalance for the past in the very different terms of the present day and which in the process reduces or even elides the very complex medical, intellectual, social and political realities of that place and time. FiachraByrne 18:48, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Chinese stethoscope and church permission[edit]

Is the information on chinese stethoscope and church permission for treatment from a reliable source? SpinningSpark 17:05, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

I recently deleted two passages attributed to Castiglioni. This book is available in google snippet view but searches failed to get any hits for the material I deleted. However, User talk:Foghlopy has asserted that the material is in this book. Scholar and gbook searches have failed to find any corroborating sources and I am inclined to treat this as an unreliable source. I will start a separate thread below for each of the two passages as they are unrelated. SpinningSpark 11:46, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Chinese stethoscope[edit]

The phrase inserted in the article, In 56 BC, Zhang Liang invented an instrument named "Meng" which is considered to be precursor of modern stethoscope appears all over the internet, but these are all unreliable sources mostly connected with chinese tourism. Neither scholar nor gbooks gets any hits for "Zhang Liang stethoscope" or "chinese stethoscope". In any event, I think the phrase "precursor of modern stethoscope" is misleading and it does not appear in Castiglioni's text as quoted by Foghlopy. SpinningSpark 11:46, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Can we see the quoted text anywhere? Martin Hogbin (talk) 17:11, 9 April 2011 (UTC)
Follow the link to Foghlopy's page. SpinningSpark 18:48, 9 April 2011 (UTC)
Could we not have something that follows the cited text more closely such as, 'A primitive form of stethoscope was used in China in 56 BC by Zhang Liang'. 20:06, 9 April 2011 (UTC)

Church permission[edit]

During the 1910s, medicine was closely related to church in most of Europe including the United Kingdom. Most doctors took permission of the church before prescribing any medicine to patients.[53] Before surgeries, permission of the church was mandatory. The idea that doctors sought permission from the church before treating patients seems far-fetched to me. I know of no other source that makes this assertion and all other sources give every impression that doctors kept their own council and were beholden only to their own professional bodies. There are plenty of sources documenting conflict between physicians and what they saw as competion from surgeons, apothecaries and midwives but little or no conflict with the church. One source here and here says that 17th century physicians largely ignored the church in going about their business. It would be quite incredible if physicians were not controlled by the church in the 17th century when the church had great power were to suddenly voluntarily place themselves under its influence in the 20th. SpinningSpark 11:46, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

This claim seems extremely dubious, to say the least. Apart from the fact that the statement is misrepresenting the source (if one is to believe the quotation given by Foghlopy on their talk page); the source says "a lot", which is not necessarily a majority, - it seems to be a statement of such a controversial nature, that it would need additional sourcing to be acceptable, preferably of more recent date. --Saddhiyama (talk) 17:34, 5 April 2011 (UTC)
Agree. It should be removed, together with the stethoscope claims as well. Athenean (talk) 18:53, 5 April 2011 (UTC)
Also agree --BoogaLouie (talk) 16:23, 6 April 2011 (UTC)
Neither the material on the Chinese stethoscope nor the Church seems to me to be well-referenced. Oreo Priest talk 00:54, 7 April 2011 (UTC)
Do we have a quote from the source? It looks to me as though this one should be removed or reworded as there are sources wHich state the reverse. Martin Hogbin (talk) 17:18, 9 April 2011 (UTC)

Reference check[edit]

User:Spinningspark asked me back on 7 April to look into the source of the quotes from Arturo Castiglioni's book A History of Medicine. I am currently sitting in Senate House Library, the main humanities library of the University of London, and have a copy of the 1969 edition of Castiglioni's book, in 1975 reprint. The library shelfmark is HEALTH North Block 2nd Floor (3), HM3 Cas (online library catalogue), and the title page lists the following: LC 73-81219, ISBN 0876681038.

The references do not pan out in this later edition. The citations given on User talk:Foghlopy are not present in this edition at those locations. I have done a fairly cursory search of the index and table of contents and cannot find citations for the Chinese origin of the stethoscope nor for the relationship the quote on User talk:Foghlopy asserts between the practice of medicine in Europe and the need to seek approval from religious authorities.

Firstly, regarding stethoscopes, the index contains only one reference for "Stethoscope", which is page 700. On page 700 and continuing on to page 702 is a profile of René Laennec, who is given sole credit for "discovery of the stethoscope and its use in auscultation" (p700-1). No suggestion is given on pages 700-702 that the invention was prompted or preceded by any other inventor. The source notes (on p. 701):

The story of Laënnec's discovery of mediate auscultation, and his use first of cylinders of paper and later of hollow wooden tubes, copying th egame played by urchins of listening to the sound of taps on hollow logs, should be read by all who are interested in the history of medicine.

No mention is made of Zhang Liang in the Index of Names (I checked under both Z and L). I read through Chapter VII of the book (pp 98-112), which details "Far Eastern Medicine" with a primary focus on China, and a little on Japan. No mention is made of Zhang Liang, stethoscopes or anything related. If mention is made in earlier editions of the book, they may have been removed.

Secondly, on the matter of religious influence on the practice of medicine, I looked in the index and no mention is made of "religion", "church" or "Christianity". The index is somewhat lacking in that regard as the book does contain discussion of religion in the chapter on Chinese medicine, specifically Confucianism. The index is particularly bad as there are whole sections devoted to Christianity and medicine, specifically a chapter 14 "Medicine in the Christian West during the First Centuries of the Middle Ages. From Monastic Medicine to the Lay Medicine of Salerno." (p. 288-322).

As the book is of considerable length and on a subject I am not particularly knowledgable or interested in, I leave it up to other editors to decide whether the fact that I am unable to trace these references in the later edition means the claims that depend on them now lack verifiability or not. As a point of reference, I looked in a book entitled The Western Medical Tradition 1800 to 2000 (ISBN 9780521475242) and couldn't find anything which looks like it might back up the claim about religion in European medicine in the 1910s.

I hope that helps. —Tom Morris (talk) 12:01, 13 April 2011 (UTC)

Thanks Tom, I have closed the RfC and removed the text from the article on the basis of your research. SpinningSpark 21:05, 13 April 2011 (UTC)

Avicenna, Bacteria, and Viruses[edit]

I would be really interested in learning how Avicenna "wrote the first descriptions of bacteria and viruses" without the benefit of a microscope. I find the claim extraordinary, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary sources. I note this is sourced to this [7], however the source does not appear to specialize on the history of medicine, let alone appear "extraordinary", nor is an explanation of how Avicenna achieved this extraordinary feat. For such a claim, nothing less than a high quality source specializing on the history of medicine or biology will do. If such a source is not provided, I will remove it. Athenean (talk) 02:40, 15 April 2011 (UTC)

This claim was discussed and rejected at the RSN discussion now archived at Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard/Archive_94#Extraordinary_claims_based_on_not-so-extraordinary_sources. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:41, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Nonsense about "basis of the circulatory system"[edit]

The claim that pulmonary circulation and coronary circulation being the "basis of the circulatory system" is nonsense. And anyway, a source on Islamic Medicine is not the right kind of source for that. Rather, a mainstream anatomy text should be used (good luck with that). Athenean (talk) 02:54, 15 April 2011 (UTC)

Initially, you removed the sentence because the circulatory system "was discovered by William Harvey", now that a source has been provided, it has become a different issue, disputing the provided source (written by a professor of History of Medicine) and not willing to accept other than "expert" sources. But let me remind you that you did remove sources that meet the criteria that you are now demanding; the source
A. Martin-Araguz, C. Bustamante-Martinez, Ajo V. Fernandez-Armayor, J. M. Moreno-Martinez (2002). "Neuroscience in al-Andalus and its influence on medieval scholastic medicine", Revista de neurología 34 (9), p. 877-892
was removed because it referred to Abu al-Qasim (clearly a non-Westerner) as the "father of modern surgery".
So what's going on ? Al-Andalusi (talk) 03:26, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
I removed it because it was an example of the "Father complex" that plagues these articles, not because the source was unreliable. It doesn't matter the source, the whole "Father of X" thing is old. Please provide a high quality source for how Avicenna described bacteria and viruses before the invention of the microscope, like I asked above, or the claim will be removed. Also, the sources you are using [8] [9] appear dubious. I will request a second opinion on the appropriate noticeboards, because it seems discussion here is unlikely to lead anywhere. Athenean (talk) 03:41, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
Many would disagree with you on the "old-fashioned" claim as we have an article for that: List of people considered father or mother of a field. Al-Andalusi (talk) 03:57, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
Whatever, I don't really care about the "Father of X" thing, I can let it go. However, my other points (about Avicenna and viruses, the "basis of the circulatory system", and discovery of immunology) remain. Regarding Avicenna, while the source is reliable, it is not sufficient for such an extraordinary claim. As for the other two, the sources appear dubious. While the CAM source is published by the Oxford University Press, the references used therein are dubious [10]. The JISHIM source is questionable [11]. But whatever, that's what third opinions are for, I'm not in a hurry. Athenean (talk) 04:22, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
...and you're doubting reference [11] and the sources cited by [10] because ? I think that needs to be clarified. Al-Andalusi (talk) 04:45, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
Ibn al-Nafis should be credited with the proposition of a theory (or "the discovery" if you prefer) of the pulmonary (lesser) circulation of blood far in advance of Severetus or Realdo Colombo. This is not a controversial claim at this point in time. There are any number of sources to confirm this including that provided by a fairly standard textbook on the history of medicine such as Roy Porter's The Greatest Benefit to Mankind (London, 1997), p. 99. FiachraByrne (talk) 03:08, 16 April 2011 (UTC)
That's fine, I don't dispute that. What I dispute is the bizarre claim that Ibn-alNafis' discovery of pulmonary circulation "forms the basis of the circulatory system" [12], sourced to a clearly partisan publication that is not even listed in PubMed. Athenean (talk) 04:09, 16 April 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Well, I think we can categorise that claim as fringe and remove it if it's clearly erroneous from a medical point of view. Just include the standard statement of Ibn al-Nafis's priority in making a proposition about pulmonary circulation. Similarly, the claim that Islamic physicians discovered "micro-organisms" during the period of the black death must be regarded as fringe. FiachraByrne (talk) 17:52, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

The claim for first descriptions of bacteria and viruses was removed. Al-Andalusi (talk) 18:45, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
So here's what I propose: We leave the part about Ibn Al Nafis as the discoverer of pulmonary circulation, which no one disputes, and remove the odd claim that pulmonary circulation is the basis of the circulatory system, which a) has nothing to do with the history of medicine, and b) is not sourced to an appropriate source. Athenean (talk) 00:26, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Fine, let's remove the basis claim, because as you mention it has nothing to do with history. However, I do not accept reason (b) which says that the source is not appropriate as this claim has not been established. As mentioned on the noticeboard, the journal is cited in a number of peer-reviewed journals. Al-Andalusi (talk) 01:42, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
In my opinion the source is of mixed quality. Some of the articles are good and some are poor. There's obviously a general programme to highlight Islamic contributions to medicine and while any such programme is problematic there's nothing intrinsically wrong with this. However, some of the claims made are plainly erroneous, misrepresentative of source material or anachronistic. Editorial control and peer review appears to be a bit weak. Another problem, ironically, is the large amount of doctors who contribute to the journal. This gives rise, I think, to problems of presentism where the past is understood solely in relation to its contribution to the present and partakes of the decontextualised translation of historical concepts, practices and traditions into contemporary terms. Therefore, I don't support the exclusion of this source but I do think it should be read critically and any extraordinary claims should be supported by other citations. FiachraByrne (talk) 01:54, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

I'm going to quote a little from the original article written by Max Meyerhof in Isis in 1935 on Ibn al-Nafis ('Ibn An-Nafîs (XIIIth Cent.) and His Theory of the Lesser Circulation', Isis, vol. 23, no. 1 (Jun., 1935), pp 100-120) which was an elaboration of the doctoral thesis of the Egyptian physician Muhyi al-Din Altawi (1924). In it he provides a translation of the relevant section of al-Nafis's commentary on the anatomy sections of Avicenna's Canon. First in the preface to this commentary he writes:

The interdiction of the Religious Law and our own natural Charity have prevented us from practical dissection. We intend, therefore, to rely when studying the form of the internal organs, on the explanations of those who were able, before our time, to practise this, particularly on those of the excellent GALEN, as his books are the best. that have come down to us concerning this art.(Meyerhof, p. 115.)

I think the Islamic interdiction of dissection is an important contextualisation and should be included in this section of the article as it establishes that we are dealing here with what is largely - but by no means exclusively - with a medical literary tradition. It is not necessarily related to actual practice or direct observation. However, in regard to Ibn al-Nafis, it is contested:

The description of his findings are so emphatic and clear that he could not have conceivably arrived at these conclusions by just deduction as suggested by Mayeroff. We can almost assume that Ibn Nafis had himself undertaken dissection of animals or cadavers (perhaps in secret) and out of religious and societal concerns denied that he had ever done so. - Husain F. Nagamia, 'A biograpical sketch of the discoverer of pulmonary and coronary circulation' JISHIM v. 1 (2003), p. 27.

The relevant section of Nafis's commentary reads (long quote but it's out of copyright):

As the production of the [vital] spirit is one of the functions of the heart, and as this spirit consists of much-refined blood with a large admixture of airy substance, it is necessary that the heart should contain both refined blood and air so that the spirit may be generated out of the substance produced by their mixture; this takes place where the spirit is generated, viz. in the left cavity of the heart. It is, moreover, indispensable for the heart of man and of such animals as have lungs like him, to possess another cavity in which the blood is refined in order to become apt for the mixture with the air; for, if air is mixed with thick blood, it is not possible to form a homogeneous substance out of them. This cavity is the right cavity of the heart. The blood, after it has been refined in this cavity, must be transmitted to the left cavity where the [vital] spirit is generated. But there is no passage between these two cavities; for the substance of the heart is solid in this region and has neither a visible passage, as was thought by some persons, nor an invisible one which could have permitted the transmission of blood, as was alleged by Galen. The pores of the heart there are closed and its substance is thick. Therefore, the blood, after having been refined, must rise in the arterious vein to the lung in order to expand in its volume and to be mixed with air so that its finest part may be clarified and may reach the venous artery in which it is transmitted to the left cavity of the heart. This, after having been mixed with the air and having attained the aptitude to generate the vital spirit. That part [of the blood] which is less refined, is used by the lung for its nutrition. (Quoted in Meyerhof, p. 116.)

There's also the question of transmission. There's apparently no mention of this theory challenging Galen in any other Islamic text of the period and there is no established chain of tranmission to Servetus. FiachraByrne (talk) 02:44, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Rather, Ibn al-Nafis theory on pulmonary circulation was almost unknown by later Islamic writers. There appears to have been two writers In the fourteenth century who were familiar with his work. FiachraByrne (talk) 03:11, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Reliable sources Prioreschi, Plinio (2001). A History of Medicine: Byzantine and Islamic medicine. Horatius press. pp. 277–278. ISBN 9781888456042. Retrieved 15 April 2011.  tell us exactly who contributed what to the history of medicine. The "Islamic" period is important but its not what we have here.J8079s (talk) 07:43, 15 April 2011 (UTC)

I read the sentence as meaning that pulmonary and coronary circulation are the basis of the circulatory system, not that the discovery of their existence was the basis of the circulatory system.
However obviously true it is that the heart and lungs are fundamental to the circulatory system, I don't think that this article really needs to bother saying that, so I'd leave it out. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:47, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Modern surgery[edit]

About the 'father of modern surgery', mentioned above:

"Modern surgery" among English speakers is generally taken to include, as a minimum, deliberate and consistent use of aseptic technique and reliable forms of general anesthesia. Neither of these were available anywhere in the world until the later parts of the 19th century, and the title "father of modern surgery" is usually given to Joseph Lister, but it has been equally applied to people like William Halsted, Ambroise Paré and Lawson Tait. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:55, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Right, that was my impression as well. Athenean (talk) 19:21, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
In fact, even a quick search on google books for "father of modern medicine" [13] (restricted to post-1960s sources) comes up with mostly Ambroise Pare and Joseph Lister, rather than Abulcasis. Which makes perfect sense, since the use of antisepsis by Lister was perhaps the single most important development in the history of surgery. It's hardly "modern" if your patients are dying like flies due to infection. Athenean (talk) 18:07, 22 April 2011 (UTC)


For whomever most edits this page, please note: someone has added a couple of odd, random sentences in the intro. There could be other such sentences as well, but I didn't read the entire article. Thanks. 14:33, 25 May 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pillartopost (talkcontribs)

Nothing happened between 16th and 19th century??[edit]

There is a gap that has to be filled Magnagr (talk) 08:09, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

The article needs a massive rewrite and reorganisation and very hard to do actually while maintaining world coverage. However, there needs to be a section/coverage of on irregular practitioners (so-called "quacks"), the medical marketplace (18th century), rise of the hospital (and hospital consultants), emergence of specialisms, emergence of GP/surgeon-apothecary, impact of epidemics (cholera in 1830s) and state response, McKeown thesis and partial rebuttals, doctor-patient relationship and the patient's voice (Jewson & Fissell), etc, etc. Probably the rise of the hospital is the single most serious omission. If anyone else wants to begin I'll pitch in with sources etc, time permitting. FiachraByrne (talk) 00:02, 7 November 2012 (UTC)
I too would like too see a reorganized article based on time rather than geography. I have made some additions at Timeline of medicine I think we might have to split this page but lets cross that bridge when we come to it. Be Bold J8079s (talk) 20:46, 21 November 2012 (UTC)
OK. You're on. I'm going to use sources from the field of medical history which will result in a very different article. This field has its own biases, etc, and the focus is very much on social and cultural factors rather than clinical developments or great doctors etc. Currently, lists of notable physicians have been added to the trailing portions of various sections. I'd favour using prose rather than lists but perhaps some or all of these entries could be retained if we moved these lists to right aligned {{quote box}}es in the relevant article sections? I don't know why the US Civil War is given such prominence but I may hit that with a sledgehammer and just do a thematic section on war. First, I'd like to rationalise the reference system a bit and create a proper bibliography.FiachraByrne (talk) 22:55, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
the US Civil war coderage is appropriate -- their is a large scholarly literature (more than for medicine in WW2) and the topic is very important for many areas of medicine -- from surgery to nursing to hospitals to National Library of Medicine . It's Europe that is missing. Rjensen (talk) 23:10, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
It's a bit undue is all and highly specific to one country. Anyway. There are more egregious problems first so there's no imminent changes. FiachraByrne (talk) 23:28, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

I dumped the names so we would have something. If we try to get everything on this page it will be too long but lets get things better organized first. We have the page History of surgery (which needs work) and Timeline of medicine. By all means Be bold J8079s (talk) 00:17, 20 February 2013 (UTC)

License to edit then ;) FiachraByrne (talk) 02:09, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
License to thrill! Good Lord, this is a big project. Good luck Fiachra! I might even stop by when Chiropractic is cleaned up!  ;) DVMt (talk) 02:25, 20 February 2013 (UTC)

Parking lists from article here.[edit]

I'm parking a number of lists of physicians from the article here for the moment. FiachraByrne (talk) 23:45, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

From "Galen" section:

From section "Middle Ages 5th-16th century" (section removed as no prose content; it or a similar section will be recreated with prose content):

From section "Islamic Middle Ages 9th-12th":

From section "Scholastic Medicine 13th-16th century"

From section "Renaissance to Early Modern Period 16th-18th century"

From section "19th century: Rise of modern medicine":

Citation system[edit]

I'm going to change the referencing to reduce article clutter. Moving to list defined references with {{r}} template for articles etc and {{sfn}} and {{harvnb}} for books. FiachraByrne (talk) 23:49, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

I object. that is a hard system for editors and users. Rjensen (talk) 02:13, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
OK. I'll halt the transition until we can establish consensus. Rather than using this mixed system, I would also favour switching to a pure short citation format - i.e. {{sfn}} and {{harvnb}}. Personally, I don't fancy rewriting the article with the present referencing system. Citation clutter inhibits writing and the article, if written properly, will have a lot of sources - particularly from books where it's important to cite individual pages. It won't be manageable, for me at least, to rewrite with simple ref tags. But I await the opinion of other editors. FiachraByrne (talk) 03:50, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
There's certainly a learning curve for editors, but for users article sources are much more legible with a bibliographical list. It's also a system frequently used for featured articles. Anyhow, I await input from other editors. FiachraByrne (talk) 03:52, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
footnotes 1-8 show what I dislike, for they tell the users close to zero at a glance--they have to hunt around to find what's going on. The other notes are clear and direct and useful to the reader who is interested in exploring topics. Rjensen (talk) 03:55, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
They just have to click the reference to get the full bibliographical information. Again, it's very hard to manage book citations particularly with simple ref tags. I've used short citations at Bethlem Royal Hospital (not quite finished) and I don't think that article would have been possible to write otherwise. Anyway, I'm off to bed, so I'll see what other editors think. FiachraByrne (talk) 04:01, 20 February 2013 (UTC)
OK, fair enough. If you're sticking at this you might consider expanding the section on Parisian medicine. Other sections/topics that might merit inclusion or expansion are: humoralism; impact of the Enlightenment; the medical marketplace; the rise of the hospital; professionalisation & relationship of medical profession to the state; emergence of scientific medicine; public medicine and public health. There are more, but succinct coverage of those topics would be an improvement. Also, I really think you should consider whether approximately half of the coverage of medicine in the 19th century should be taken up with the US civil war. There's also an open access journal called Medical History which is worth checking out if sources are an issue. Best to you. FiachraByrne (talk) 04:28, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the excellent suggestions. I like to add short sections on specific topics (such as Padua and Bologna medicine) ....this is a HUGE topic that is poorly served by Wikipedia at present. it's a long drawn-out process that takes months not hours. (and I have been adding to other articles such as nursing and hospitals) As for the 19th century, it indeed needs a great deal of expansion. The solution is to add material (which I did for Paris) rather than erase useful material. Rjensen (talk) 04:35, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
There's an endless supply of material that could be added. Content should be illustrative of broader themes which the article elucidates. Some thought should be put into the overall structure of the article. I'd suggest modifying the structure to reflect existing general histories of medicine:
It might be useful to also get a feel for the overall field.
The US civil war has a significance in the history of medicine but it is not merely an American one and, for an article like this which is notionally global in scope, it would make greater sense to place it in the context of modern warfare (Franco-Prussian war, WWI, WWII, etc) & the militarisation of medicine. More generally, the topic should not be a simple iteration of great physicians and their great discoveries; that's an older model which is not now adopted. Also, consider wiping the section on the history of psychiatry and, if it's to be included as a separate section, starting over; it doesn't summarise the body of current research. FiachraByrne (talk) 15:37, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
we have to work with the RS that are out there and there is a great deal on US civil war and less on the world wars. (there are articles on poison gas and shell shock and the flu epidemic, and a huge amount on Nazi experiments and effects of Hiroshima). Rjensen (talk) 19:57, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
This is from one who is just having a look in with a plain reader's interest in being reasonably well-informed, and no intent to join in with editing here. Now, about the comment: "we have to work with the RS that are out there". With genuine respect for that editor's published work (sincerely, I ordered a copy of an early work of his, and consider myself the better informed for having read it) is he really wanting us to let Wp articles be no more than an undiscriminating digest of anything that happens to be out there? We all know that the bulk of material measured in words and column inches is no guarantee of its worth for the purposes of an encyclopedia. Resort to such reasoning results in the inference that there is nothing better to support the claim. So what can it mean, please? One of the first duties of the skilled editor is to have sufficient knowledge of a wide-ranging and complex topic to be able to get every part into proportion with the whole. Qexigator (talk) 22:44, 21 February 2013 (UTC)
He didn't necessarily add the "digest content"; it was just my advice that it be removed. FiachraByrne (talk) 00:13, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
Ah, I didn't realise who you were. Well there's little point giving you advice, you can read your way into whatever material you want. In terms of the historiography, I think you're wrong on the US Civil War though. Try a search for war articles in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine - a journal in the field which naturally favours US topics – and you'll see. It's also my opinion that it would work better as part of thematic section (else how to handle all that content). Roger Cooter had a nice edited collection on medicine and warfare (a while ago now) which is worth checking out [14]. FiachraByrne (talk) 00:10, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
our role is to summarize the best scholarship that is available. As for the world wars the quality of published work is, in my opinion, thin and mediocre for the medical history of WW2, somewhat better for WWI, and rather extensive for the US Civil War. My line of work as a professional historian for the last 50 years is evaluating the quality of historical scholarship, so I think I can avoid the traps that Qexigator warns against. The section on the history of psychiatry is poor -- and that's FiachraByrne's specialty so I hope he can rework it. Rjensen (talk) 00:34, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for putting to rest this intruder's needless worry.Qexigator (talk) 00:47, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
Righto, I'll do me penitence and squeeze 200 years or so of psychiatric history into a couple of paragraphs. FiachraByrne (talk) 01:00, 22 February 2013 (UTC)

History of Medicine in the United States[edit]

I propose to start an article on History of medicine in the United States. I will start with a bibliography (which I compiled for Citizendium and add some text from here and elsewhere. Such an article is lacking although we do have Osteopathic medicine in the United States. My expertise is in some specialty topics (eg demographic history, nursing history), so I hope others will jump in as well. Rjensen (talk) 01:25, 22 February 2013 (UTC)

Bravo! Even the undersigned, with little experience of nine pin and less of jum pin, can see that this new topic is already producing results good both for itself and for History of medicine, and for the Alternative medicine topic which is attempting (in a comparatively amateurish way) to describe the curious 20-21c. episode designated CAM, now in the later stages of playing out in N.America and everywhere else. Qexigator (talk) 09:04, 22 February 2013 (UTC)