Renaissance

With the revival of classical Greek learning, or humanism, during the Renaissance, Western medicine was profoundly influenced by the replacement of corrupt and incomplete texts with new Latin translations of the original Greek. However, tensions developed between the old learning and contemporary insights into the phenomena of health and disease, some of which had been previously ignored or misun derstood. For example, the early-sixteenth-century findings of Andreas Vesalius of Padua, based on meticulous and systematic dissections that established the foundations of modern anatomy in the West, contradicted Galen's descriptions. In fact, Vesalius demonstrated that Galen's findings were based on animal dissections - especially of the barbary ape -instead of human dissections.

Another sixteenth-century attack on classical medicine came from a Swiss practitioner, Philippus von Hohenheim, better known by his adopted name, Paracelsus. His goal was to investigate nature directly and thereby discover the hidden correspondences between the cosmos and human beings. During his many travels, Paracelsus acquired a detailed knowledge of occupational diseases. For example, he observed the ailments contracted by European miners, an unprecedented pathology without adequate classical antecedents. On the basis of his alchemical education and clinical experience, Paracelsus formulated a new theory of medicine based on the notion that the body functioned chemically under the direction of an internal "archeus," or alchemist, responsible for maintaining the proper balances and mixtures. Consequently, cures could be achieved only through the administration of chemically prepared remedies. Paracelsus strongly advocated the use of mercury in the treatment of syphilis, a potentially toxic therapy widely accepted by his contemporaries.

Equally important were the innovations in surgical technique and management of gunshot wounds by the sixteenth-century French surgeon Ambroise Paré. On the basis of new anatomic knowledge and clinical observations, Paré questioned a series of traditional assumptions concerning the treatment of injured soldiers, including venesection, cauterization, and the use of boiling oil. Paré's publications, written in the vernacular, profoundly influenced the surgical craft of his day, replacing ancient methods with procedures based on empirical knowledge.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

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