1902 Encyclopedia > Medicine > Consequences of the Revival of Ancient Medicine

(Part 22)

Consequences of the Revival of Ancient Medicine

The revival of Galenic and Hippocratic medicine, though ultimately it conferred the greatest benefits on medical science, did not immediately produce any important or salutary reform in practical medicine. The standard of excellence in the ancient writers was indeed far above the level of the 16th century; but the fatal habit of taking at second hand what should have been acquired by direct observation retarded progress more than the possession of better models assisted it, so that the fundamental faults of mediaeval science remained uncorrected.

Nevertheless some progress has to be recorded, even if not due directly to the study of ancient medicine. In the first place the 15th and 16th centuries were notable for the outbreak of certain epidemic diseases, which were unknown to the old physicians. Of these the chief was the "sweating sickness" or "English sweat," especially prevalent in, though not confined to, the country whence it is named. Among many descriptions of this disease, that by John Kaye or Caius, already referred to, was one of the best, and of great importance as showing that the works of Galen did not comprise all that could be known in medicine. The spread of syphilis, a disease equally unknown to the ancients, and the failure of Galen’s remedies to cure it, had a similar effect.

In another direction the foundations of modern medicine were being laid during the 16th century, namely, by the introduction of clinical instruction in hospitals. In this Italy, and especially the renowned school of Padua, took the first step, where De Monte (Montanus), already mentioned as a humanist, gave clinical lectures on the patients in the hospital of St Francis, which may still be read with interest. Pupils flocked to him from all European countries; German are especially mentioned; a Polish student reported and published some of his lectures; and the Englishman Kaye was a zealous disciple, who does not, however, seem to have done anything towards transplanting this method of instruction to his own country. Inspections of the dead, to ascertain the nature of the disease, were made, though not without difficulty, and thus the modern period of the science of morbid anatomy was ushered in.

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