Maintaining a comfortable state of health is a goal shared by much of the world’s population past and present, thus the history of health and medicine weaves a thread connecting us with our ancestors’ human experiences. Yet it’s easy to assume that studying it involves either celebrating the ‘eureka moments’ of well-known heroes or laughing at outdated therapies. But, as I set out to show in my book, The History of Medicine in 100 Facts (Amberley Publishing, 2015), medicine’s past features plenty of lesser-known but equally fascinating episodes…
This week on the Evolution of Medicine podcast, we welcome Brian Mulvaney, Director of Strategy at CrossFit. If you’ve been part of our community for awhile, you know that we’re working towards helping create 100k micropractices. Our plan for micropractices very much mirrors the Crossfit strategy – reduce the overhead, empower individuals to become entrepreneurs.
510–430 BC – Alcmaeon of Croton scientific anatomic dissections. He studied the optic nerves and the brain, arguing that the brain was the seat of the senses and intelligence. He distinguished veins from the arteries and had at least vague understanding of the circulation of the blood. Variously described by modern scholars as Father of Anatomy; Father of Physiology; Father of Embryology; Father of Psychology; Creator of Psychiatry; Founder of Gynecology; and as the Father of Medicine itself. There is little evidence to support the claims but he is, nonetheless, important.
China also developed a large body of traditional medicine. Much of the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine derived from empirical observations of disease and illness by Taoist physicians and reflects the classical Chinese belief that individual human experiences express causative principles effective in the environment at all scales. These causative principles, whether material, essential, or mystical, correlate as the expression of the natural order of the universe.
In 1865 Joseph Lister (1827-1912) discovered antiseptic surgery, which enabled surgeons to perform many more complicated operations. Lister prevented infection by spraying carbolic acid over the patient during surgery. German surgeons developed a better method. The surgeons hands and clothes were sterilized before the operation and surgical instruments were sterilized with superheated steam. Rubber gloves were first used in surgery in 1890. Anesthetics and antiseptics made surgery much safer. They allowed far more complicated operations.
Responding to a growing consumer movement, Congress passes two major pieces of legislation: the Wheeler-Lea Act, which allows the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute against companies whose advertising deceives and harms consumers; and the Copeland Bill, which expands the Food and Drug Administration's power to regulate drug and food safety, and extends its oversight to include cosmetics.
^ Andrews, Jonathan (2004). "The Rise of the Asylum in Britain". In Brunton, Deborah. Medicine Transformed: Health, Disease and Society in Europe 1800–1930. Manchester University Press. pp. 298–330. ISBN 978-0719067358.; Porter, Roy (2003). "Introduction". In Porter, Roy; Wright, David. The Confinement of the Insane: International Perspectives, 1800–1965. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–19. ISBN 978-1139439626.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, that’s great. The summit, it seems there’s so many great speakers, so many good topics. I love that there’s a doctor practitioner track. And I really encourage anyone who’s listening to this to check it out, because there’s a wealth of information there. It’s really representative of what the future of medicine is going to be. And there’s a lot of really practical, actionable information that you can use right now to improve your health. So if you want to check it out, go to ChrisKresser.com/evomed. That’s E-V-O-M-E-D, ChrisKresser.com/evomed. And you can register for free for this summit. You can watch all the talks for free, which is about as good as it gets. And, yeah, go over there and sign up, and they’ll send you the schedule.
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In 1847 in Vienna, Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865), dramatically reduced the death rate of new mothers (due to childbed fever) by requiring physicians to clean their hands before attending childbirth, yet his principles were marginalized and attacked by professional peers. At that time most people still believed that infections were caused by foul odors called miasmas.
This week on the Evolution of Medicine, we continue our series featuring innovators in the Health Coach field. We welcome, Carey Peters with Health Coach Institute(formerly Holistic MBA). Carey and her business partner, Stacey, have been in the field of health coaching for over a decade. They have dedicated themselves to the education and success of health coaches all over the country.
A number of Greeks speculated that the human body was made up of elements. If they were properly balanced the person was healthy. However if they became unbalanced the person fell ill. Finally Aristotle (384-322 BC) thought the body was made up of four humors or liquids. They were phlegm, blood, yellow bile and black bile. If a person had too much of one humor they fell ill. For instance if a person had a fever he must have too much blood. The treatment was to cut the patient and let him bleed.
A nearby tomb reveals the image of Merit Ptah, the first female doctor known by name. She lived in approximately 2,700 BC and hieroglyphs on the tomb describe her as ‘the Chief Physician’. That’s pretty much all that’s known about her career, but the inscription reveals that it was possible for women to hold high-status medical roles in Ancient Egypt.
In the 1950s new psychiatric drugs, notably the antipsychotic chlorpromazine, were designed in laboratories and slowly came into preferred use. Although often accepted as an advance in some ways, there was some opposition, due to serious adverse effects such as tardive dyskinesia. Patients often opposed psychiatry and refused or stopped taking the drugs when not subject to psychiatric control. There was also increasing opposition to the use of psychiatric hospitals, and attempts to move people back into the community on a collaborative user-led group approach ("therapeutic communities") not controlled by psychiatry. Campaigns against masturbation were done in the Victorian era and elsewhere. Lobotomy was used until the 1970s to treat schizophrenia. This was denounced by the anti-psychiatric movement in the 1960s and later.
Finally in the 19th century, Western medicine was introduced at the local level by Christian medical missionaries from the London Missionary Society (Britain), the Methodist Church (Britain) and the Presbyterian Church (US). Benjamin Hobson (1816–1873) in 1839, set up a highly successful Wai Ai Clinic in Guangzhou, China. The Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese was founded in 1887 by the London Missionary Society, with its first graduate (in 1892) being Sun Yat-sen, who later led the Chinese Revolution (1911). The Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese was the forerunner of the School of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, which started in 1911.
She came to our recent Functional Forum in San Francisco and afterwards approached us with some great ideas about how we can make the Functional Forum more approachable for those with social anxiety. If you've seen the forum, you know that Gabe and James are not introverted by any stretch of the imagination, so, it was great to learn from the experience of others.
Unfortunately in the 17th century medicine was still handicapped by wrong ideas about the human body. Most doctors still thought that there were four fluids or 'humors' in the body, blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Illness resulted when you had too much of one humor. Nevertheless during the 17th century a more scientific approach to medicine emerged and some doctors began to question traditional ideas. Apart from Harvey the most famous English doctor of the 17th century was Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689). He is sometimes called the English Hippocrates because he emphasized the importance of carefully observing patients and their symptoms.
At the same time Greek doctors developed a rational theory of disease and sought cures. However one did not replace the other. The cult of Asclepius and Greek medicine existed side by side. Medical schools were formed in Greece and in Greek colonies around the Mediterranean. As early as 500 BC a man named Alcmaeon from Croton in Italy said that a body was healthy if it had the right balance of hot and cold, wet and dry. It the balance was upset the body grew ill. However the most famous Greek doctor is Hippocrates (C.460-377 BC). (Although historians now believe that he was much less famous in his own time that was once thought. It is believed that many of the medical books ascribed to him were actually written by other men). Hippocrates stressed that doctors should carefully observe the patients symptoms and take note of them. Hippocrates also rejected all magic and he believed in herbal remedies.
During the 18th century superstition declined. In 1700 many people believed that scrofula (a form of tubercular infection) could be healed by a monarch's touch. (Scrofula was called the kings evil). Queen Anne (reigned 1702-1714) was the last British monarch to touch for scrofula. Despite the decline of superstition there were still many quacks in the 18th century. Limited medical knowledge meant many people were desperate for a cure. One of the most common treatments, for the wealthy, was bathing in or drinking spa water, which they believed could cure all kinds of illness.
Couldn’t agree more about the cost of functional medicine tests being problematic (and the fact that mainstream medicine does not cover the cost), really glad you raised this Chris as being a health detective for ones own health quickly becomes really expensive. So was really intrigued to hear that there is a functional medicine approach working in rural Indiana. If this is going to be a real health revolution then it needs to be one that is accessible to the very average person.
During the 20th century, large-scale wars were attended with medics and mobile hospital units which developed advanced techniques for healing massive injuries and controlling infections rampant in battlefield conditions. During the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), General Pancho Villa organized hospital trains for wounded soldiers. Boxcars marked Servicio Sanitario ("sanitary service") were re-purposed as surgical operating theaters and areas for recuperation, and staffed by up to 40 Mexican and U.S. physicians. Severely wounded soldiers were shuttled back to base hospitals. Canadian physician Norman Bethune, M.D. developed a mobile blood-transfusion service for frontline operations in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), but ironically, he himself died of blood poisoning. Thousands of scarred troops provided the need for improved prosthetic limbs and expanded techniques in plastic surgery or reconstructive surgery. Those practices were combined to broaden cosmetic surgery and other forms of elective surgery.
1950s: A series of successful anti-psychotic drugs are introduced that do not cure psychosis but control its symptoms. The first of the anti-psychotics, the major class of drug used to treat psychosis, is discovered in France in 1952 and is named chlorpromazine (Thorazine). Studies show that 70 percent of patients with schizophrenia clearly improve on anti-psychotic drugs.