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Saturday, June 6, 2015

2nd century A.D.: Medical profession starts to decline

By the 2nd century A.D. there were so many schools of medicine that a person might scratch his head in a dumbfounded effort to actually find a real doctor. Some of the schools around at this time were: (1, page 39)
  1. Empiric
  2. Dogmatic
  3. Methodist
  4. Pneumatist
  5. Eclectic/ Episynthetics
There were so many schools of medicine, so many "diverse and fanciful opinions" that the medical profession, much like the rest of Rome, was falling apart, said medical historian Thomas Bradford. (1, page 39)

He said the result of this was to "lower the standard of the real medical science. The physicians nowhere aimed at useful discoveries, but simply devoted themselves to making as much money as possible. In fact, medicine like everything else in Rome at this time was fast decaying." (1, page 39)

There was also no requirement to become a doctor, so any quack, trained or otherwise, could claim to be one. This made it so those seeking help were often left confused and deterred.

So, after the death of Galen, medicine collapsed with the rest of Rome.  Of this, Bradford said:
At the death of Galen (the end of the 2nd century) there began a period during which the art of medicine not only ceased to advance, but went backward, and became enveloped in the myth and ceremonies of the priesthood. For a while the schools of philosophy and medicine still existed at Alexandria, but in the year 372 the city was subjected to pillage and fire. The scholars were stripped of their elegant quarters, the buildings were completely destroyed, and the vast collection of manuscripts were used to heat the water in the public baths. (1, page 45)
Western Civilization entered a dark ages of medicine.  Medicine would not come out from under this dark cloud until after the invention of the printing press in 1450.   In the meantime, if you needed help in times of sickness you were on your own.

  1. Bradford, Thomas Lindsley, writer, Robert Ray Roth, editor, “Quiz questions on the history of medicine from the lectures of Thomas Lindley Bradford M.D.,” 1898, Philadelphia, Hohn Joseph McVey
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