Medicine – Remembering the past, looking to the future

Doctors practising today can call on a huge body of knowledge and experience when they treat their patients. There are thousands of journals to read, hundreds of guidelines to follow and an almost unlimited number of scientific ideas to be used. Practising as a doctor involves applying new scientific discoveries and inventions to some old problems.

Yet it was not always like this. Every time a doctor takes a blood sample or listens to a patient’s heart, he or she is utilizing thousands of years of thought, experiment and experience. There have been doctors, or people like them, for thousands of years, but their methods have been evolving and only very recently have they started to use the techniques that we are familiar with. The first doctors knew nothing about cells, organs or drugs. You might very well wonder how they managed to treat people at all, but they did. This chapter explores some of the major historical advances in medicine and those that helped shape the ethos of medical practice.

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