Learned medicine is a term applied to the European medical tradition in the Early Modern period, when it experienced the tension between the texts derived from ancient Greek medicine, particularly by followers of the teachings attributed to Hippocrates, and those of Galen, and the recent theories of natural philosophy. The Renaissance principle ad fontes applied to Galen sought to establish better texts of his writings, free from later accretions, and was influential in the early 16th century. Historians use the term medical humanism to define this textual activity, pursued for its own sake.
Learned medicine centred on the practica, a genre of Latin text on nosology. Its interests were less in the abstract reasoning of the medieval medicine on which it built, and the tradition of Avicenna, than on the diagnosis of particular diseases. The tradition from Galen valued it less than theoretical concepts, but from the 15th century its status in learned medicine rose. Practica, covering diagnosis and therapies, was contrasted with theorica, which dealt with physiology and abstract thought on health and illness.
"Learned medicine" in this sense was also an academic discipline. It was taught in European universities, and its faculty had the same status as those of theology and law. Learned medicine is typically contrasted with the folk medicine of the period, but it has been argued that the distinction is not rigorous. Its Galenic teachings were challenged successively by Paracelsianism and Helmontianism.
Learned medicine and syphilis
Around the year 1500 an issue for learned medicine was the nature of morbus gallicus, now identified as venereal syphilis. Alessandro Benedetti, in particular, advocated the line that it was a novel disease, not described in the traditional authorities. Niccolo Leoniceno conceded that in terms of symptoms it could not be identified as known to the ancients; but denied that novel diseases could exist.
- Mary Lindemann (1 July 2010). Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 84–7. ISBN 978-0-521-42592-6.
- Don Bates; Donald George Bates (2 November 1995). Knowledge and the Scholarly Medical Traditions. Cambridge University Press. pp. 160–1. ISBN 978-0-521-49975-0.
- Stephen Pender; Nancy S. Struever (1 November 2012). Rhetoric and Medicine in Early Modern Europe. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-4094-7105-9.
- Mary Ann Lund (7 January 2010). Melancholy, Medicine and Religion in Early Modern England: Reading 'The Anatomy of Melancholy'. Cambridge University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-521-19050-3.
- Irvine Loudon (2001). Western Medicine: An Illustrated History. Oxford University Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-19-924813-1.
- Ian Maclean (23 April 2007). Logic, Signs and Nature in the Renaissance: The Case of Learned Medicine. Cambridge University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-521-03627-6.
- Anthony Grafton; Nancy Siraisi, eds. (1999). Natural Particulars: Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe. MIT Press. p. 351. ISBN 0-262-07193-2.
- Mark Jackson (25 August 2011). The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine. Oxford University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-19-954649-7.
- Peter Elmer; Ole Peter Grell (9 March 2004). Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1500-1800: A Sourcebook. Manchester University Press. pp. 38–9. ISBN 978-0-7190-6737-2.
- Andrew Wear (16 November 2000). Knowledge and Practice in English Medicine, 1550-1680. Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-521-55827-3.
- Nancy G. Siraisi (2007). History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning. University of Michigan Press. pp. 30–1. ISBN 978-0-472-11602-7.