How did hospitals and pharmacies contribute to the advancement of medical science in the Middle Ages?

The earliest forms of hospitals were healing temples located in ancient Greece. These temples were called Asclepeions and treatment centered around promoting healthy lifestyles and spiritual healing.

The Romans established military hospitals called valetudinaria for wounded gladiators and soldiers, in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. In ancient India hospices or ‘punya-salas’ were established. Here the sick and infirm were looked after and given free treatment and care. They were also known by other names such as dharmasalas, viharas and maths.

The first dedicated public hospital was founded in the eastern Byzantine Empire by a Christian saint named Basil of Caesarea, in the 4th century AD. Diseases had been treated privately till then, but Christian traditions of service transformed this equation into one where the care of the sick was considered an obligation and duty within the community.

By around the 9th century AD, Islamic hospitals called ‘bimaristans’ started to appear. These were secular in nature and offered treatment to rich and poor alike. Islamic hospitals first appeared in the city of Baghdad.

The first pharmacies were also established in Baghdad in the year 754 under the Abbasid Caliphate. Advances in botany and chemistry led to the development of the science of pharmacology and the medical uses of chemical compounds were being discovered and documented. By the 12th century pharmacies could be found in Europe as well. Pharmacies greatly aided knowledge of the properties and uses of drugs.

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Who were the people who first introduced diagnosis in medicine?

The Babylonians, along with the ancient Egyptians, were the first people to introduce the concept of diagnosis in medicine. An extensive medical compilation called the ‘Diagnostic Handbook’ existed in Babylon in the middle of the 11th century BC. This treatise described the symptoms of 3,000 different illnesses with their likely outcome or prognosis.

There was however a mix of rational elements as well as magical elements in the Babylonian diagnostic method. They observed the symptoms of the disease in great detail and its progression, but relied on spiritual treatment along with physical treatments.

The Babylonians believed that illness was the result of evil spirits attacking the body and that the health of a person depended on the battle between good and evil. Treatment therefore consisted of giving the patient medicines, often made from mustard, turpentine, pine and herbs; as well as chanting incantations and spells to get rid of the bad spirits.

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When were pills invented?

A visit to the doctor is never complete without a prescription for pills or tablets. Bitter or sweet, they are an integral part of treatment all over the world today. Have you ever wondered how and when pills were invented?

Before pills, medicines were administered in liquid form. The first pills are believed to date back to 1,500 BC. The earliest reference to pills was found in a set of ancient Egyptian papyruses. According to them, medicinal ingredients were mixed with bread, oil or honey and shaped into tiny balls. In ancient Greece such medicines were called ‘katapotia’, which means something to be swallowed. The Roman scholar, Pliny first called such medicines ‘pilula’ meaning ‘ball’ in Latin.

In medieval times pills were coated with slimy substances to make them easier to swallow. Some pills were even coated in gold and silver! Such pills were called gilded pills. In the 17th century, pills became popular in England and pill makers were granted special patent rights from the king. This meant that their top secret pill formulas were protected by law.

In the 1800s pills began to be sugar-coated and gelatine capsules were invented. In 1843, a British artist and watchmaker named William Brockedon invented a machine to compress and shape pills into the modern form that we see them in today. This machine was able to compress powder into the shape of a tablet without the use of an adhesive. Brockedon’s invention was a precursor to the modern-day pharmaceutical industry.

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What is trepanation and how is it related to headaches?

Headaches are a common malady and can occur due to a number of reasons. We know that they can result due to stress, fasting, lack of sleep, sun exposure, allergies or more serious ailments such as high blood pressure and brain tumours.

In the olden days however, headaches were a puzzle to many. It was believed that they were a result of spiritual problems or even demonic activity. Strange and bizarre reasons were cited as their cause and people resorted to extreme measures to cure them.

One of these measures involved drilling a hole into the skull of the patient! This process is called trepanation and was practiced as early as 7,000 years ago. It is considered the earliest form of surgery known to Man and involves cutting or scraping a hole in the human skull. Trepanation was carried out not just to cure headaches but also to treat brain disorders, let out evil spirits and cure insanity.

There is scientific evidence that patients often survived these operations and even came back for more! What is more remarkable is that the patients were not given any anaesthetics and were fully conscious during the operation!

Trephined skulls have been found all over the world in France, Germany, North Africa, New Zealand and South America. In places like Peru, single skulls have been found with multiple holes in them!

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Why did Sir Isaac Newton stick a needle in his eye?

He did indeed. Or more accurately, he pushed a needle behind his eye and with it, indented the sclera. The needle never entered the eye.

By doing so, he stimulated his retina in many spots and noted a "phosphene" or glowing spot that resulted from the pressure. From this he was able to "map" his own retina against where he saw the spots. This map conformed to the map on the back of a rabbit's retina that he made by shining light from a window, through a pinhole, into the rabbit's eye that had an opening cut away from the sclera allowing him to see into the rabbit's eye.

And thus Newton showed how the rays of light enter our eye by an optical system now called the camera design. And how the retina represents the outside world but with inversion (up is down and left is right).

Newton was a dedicated scientist who was willing to accept some pain and personal risk to satisfy his curiosity.


Credit : Quora

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