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A Short History of Medicine
The war between disease and doctors
fought out on the battleground of the
flesh has a beginning and a middle
but no end
Plagues and pestilences are largely of
mankind’s own making
Epidemics arose with society, and
sickness has been and will remain a
social product no less than the
medicine that opposes it
Homo sapiens appear around
150,000 BC
Hunters and gatherers face harsh
conditions and dangerous
They had short lives
There were no plagues
Infectious disease were unknown
since the population densities needed
by these microorganisms did not exist
Since they were constantly moving
around they never polluted their water
or deposited filth which attracts
disease causing insects
Lacked the tamed animals that made
civilization possible but also proved a
continued and often devastating
source of sickness
12,000 – 10,000 years ago after the
last ice age animals become scarce
and humans settle down and begin to
Free from the threat of starvation
New problem – infectious disease
Pathogens exclusive to animals
evolved into human forms (we share
60 organisms that cause disease in
Faecally polluted water spreads polio,
cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, whopping
cough, diphtheria
Granaries become infested with
bacteria toxic fungi, rodent excrement
and insects
Agriculture also led to excessive
reliance on starchy monocultures like
Poor nutrition leads to deficiency
The most momentous event for
human health was Columbus’s
landfall in 1492. The discovery
allowed contact between two human
populations that had been isolated for
1000’s of years.
The biological consequences were
devastating unleashing the worst
health disaster there has ever been
and precipitating the conquest of the
New World by old world diseases
Emerging in a disease ridden
environment people sought to
stop disease
Early times – “magic”
Greece 5th century BC – the
beginning of medicine occurs with the
Hippocratic doctors